Bridge to Nowhere brought to life in fast-moving novel
In the history of Aotearoa New Zealand, Whanganui’s Bridge to Nowhere is iconic: a symbol of hope, of futility, of the hard work of pioneering families who battled to farm the land and lost. The bridge was constructed in 1936 but now has no roads connected to it on either side, and is instead part of a national park.
For her debut novel, The Strength of Eggshells, Kiwi writer Kirsty Powell interviewed the descendants of the families of the WW1 soldiers who settled in the Mangapurua Valley above the Bridge to Nowhere. She was inspired by their stories of community spirit and resilience in the face of the rawness of their lives.
The Strength of Eggshells overlays fiction on the fascinating history of the Mangapurua Valley. The novel follows Kate, a fictional third-generation descendent, who returns to the deserted valley searching for her past.
The history of the Mangapurua Valley is still strongly held by the families of the 26 soldiers who settled there. With the families’ permission, Powell has incorporated some of the original settlers as secondary characters. For example, 92-year-old Muriel Roberts (née McDonald) appears in the novel as herself, a 14-year-old working as a Land Girl for her father when the valley closed in 1943.
Powell says interviewing Muriel and other family descendants has added to the authenticity of the novel. “Muriel has a wonderful memory, even for the names of the horses each family owned. She recalls being given a left-handed set of hand shears when she was nine years old and setting out to prove she could shear nine sheep! But Muriel mostly did the dagging for her older sisters, who were better shearers.”
Kiwi author Tina Shaw, a member of the Academy of NZ Literature Te Whare Mātātuhi o Aotearoa, says: “The powerful tug of history, the search for identity, an unresolved present, dark ghosts in the past … This is a marvellous New Zealand novel.”
The Strength of Eggshells explores the lives of strong rural New Zealanders, set against the fragile isolation of a farm upbringing, two world wars and a landscape that is slipping away.
Publisher Dione Jones says: “We are excited to publish Kirsty Powell’s debut novel. She has intertwined three generations of Kiwi women, each with their own story, using the rich backdrop of the history of Aotearoa New Zealand.”
The Strength of Eggshells is published by Cloud Ink Press, an Auckland-based publishing cooperative that provides readers with the best in fresh new Kiwi voices. The book will be available in all good bookshops from 22 October 2019.
• The Strength of Eggshells will be available to purchase from all good bookshops from 22 October 2019. It will also be available online or to purchase direct from www.cloudink.co.nz/shop
She’s six feet tall and handles a motorbike like a professional but Kate has insecurities that match her height. She ignores her past by putting her fingers in her ears.
Why did her mother Jane only communicate through poetry? What became of her grandmother Meredith who travelled up the Whanganui River on a paddle steamer to marry a returned soldier in an ill-fated valley, beyond the Bridge to Nowhere? And what should Kate do about her own love triangle which has only two points? Somewhere out there are the answers; out where only her motorbike can take her.
About the Author
Kirsty Powell grew up east of Eketahuna in an isolated rural community. A motorbike rider herself, she has a Masters in Creative Writing and enjoys writing authentic New Zealand characters into her poems, short stories and longer fiction. She is currently working on a sequel to The Strength of Eggshells.
About the publisher
Cloud Ink Press is a boutique publishing company based in Auckland. It was established in response to the changing New Zealand publishing environment and to ensure readers continue to have access to fresh voices on the New Zealand writing scene. They have published eight books and have one more being launched this year.