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  • Published: 1 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9781775538912
  • Imprint: RHNZ Adult ebooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

All Day at the Movies

'I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I have ever read' - Booksellers NZ blog

Wry, moving, beautifully observed and politically astute, this novel from one of our finest chroniclers pinpoints universal truths through very New Zealand lives.

Life isn’t always like it appears in the movies. In 1952, Irene Sandle takes her young daughter to Motueka. Irene was widowed during the war and is seeking a new start and employment in the tobacco fields. There, she finds the reality of her life far removed from the glamour of the screen. Can there be romance and happy endings, or will circumstances repeat through the generations? Each subsequent episode in this poignant work follows family secrets and the dynamics of Irene’s children. The story doesn’t just track their lives, but also New Zealand itself as its attitudes and opportunities change — and reverberate — through the decades.

'. . . she is at a literary point when age is all gain – consummate craft, passion aplenty, the complex resonance of memory, and the edginess that comes from knowing about loss' – New Zealand Books

Winner of the Heritage Book Awards, Fiction Category

  • Published: 1 August 2016
  • ISBN: 9781775538912
  • Imprint: RHNZ Adult ebooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

About the author

Fiona Kidman

Fiona Kidman has published over 30 books, including novels, poetry, non-fiction and a play. She has worked as a librarian, radio producer and critic, and as a scriptwriter for radio, television and film. The New Zealand Listener wrote: ‘In her craft and her storytelling and in her compassionate gutsy tough expression of female experience, she is the best we have.’

She has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships; in more recent years, The Captive Wife was runner-up for the Deutz Medal for Fiction and was joint-winner of the Readers’ Choice Award in the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and her short story collection The Trouble with Fire was shortlisted for both the NZ Post Book Awards and the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award. Her novel This Mortal Boy won the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, the NZ Booklovers Award, the NZSA Heritage Book Award for Fiction and the Ngaio Marsh Crime Writing Award for Best Novel.

She was created a Dame (DNZM) in 1998 in recognition of her contribution to literature, and more recently a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour. ‘We cannot talk about writing in New Zealand without acknowledging her,’ wrote New Zealand Books. ‘Kidman’s accessible prose and the way she shows (mainly) women grappling to escape from restricting social pressures has guaranteed her a permanent place in our fiction.’

Also by Fiona Kidman

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Praise for All Day at the Movies

I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I have ever read. . . . I couldn’t put it down. Dame Fiona Kidman has captured the New Zealand I grew up in, her words drawing pictures of the way we lived, the issues we faced and the people who accompanied us on our journeys as we grew. She does this so thoroughly, it was as though I was looking at a box of photographs dug out from the back of a closet. . . . The book is 320 pages in total and so perfectly written, the reader comes to the end of them satisfied with the final glimpses we are given of the characters and their fortunes, while still carrying a lingering sense of loss.

Lesley Vlietstra, Booksellers New Zealand Blog

The familiar dramas in Fiona Kidman's new novel are so real they could belong to any family. What can be said about national treasure Dame Fiona Kidman's beautifully familiar, evocative and heartrending writing that hasn't already been said? It's practically compulsory for reviewers to describe the grande dame as a writer at the height of her powers, but there you have it - it's undeniable. Here again she shines a light on suburban and small town lower middle-class New Zealand, its twisted morals and immorality.

Margaret Agnew, NZ Listener

Fiona Kidman hands us ourselves as a scrumptious national dish, heaped with goodies (and some baddies) from our homeland. She is not just Dame Fiona Kidman, she is the grande dame of New Zealand writing as she tells it how it is – and was – for us, as real people in this landscape. . . . Kidman’s situations are so real and so close to our people’s real lives that it hurts. This book should be compulsory reading for all politicians, judges, social workers; in fact anyone who has anything to do with managing the lives of others. They might then understand more. People are just people. And anything could happen to anyone, from anywhere. All Day at the Movies doesn’t just reflect ourselves; it is us.

Ruth Brassington, http://books.scoop.co.nz/

. . . it's not just a family's history, it's also a history of the nation and of society . . . a great sense of depth . . . I love the idea that lives are made of a series of moments . . . it's a very broad, long perspective, which is admirable in its craftsmanship . . . she writes great women and she writes well about the things that affect women's lives in small and big ways. I think she's such a great feature of our literary landscape, she contributes so much and we're so lucky to have her.

Louise O'Brien, National Programme, Radio NZ

A book like this, which ranges over 60 years of New Zealand time, could only be written by an author who has lived through those years and has the skills to convey the background experiences which echo those of her characters. Kidman can always be relied on to capture a thoroughly New Zealand flavour in her books and this one is no exception.

Patricia Thwaites, Otago Daily Times

An invigorating read written from an enthusiastic and well-informed base.

Lyn Loates, Weekend Herald

All Day at the Movies is a cracker of a story that sweeps through our landscapes and recent history. It's very much a New Zealand novel and it's brilliant. . . . The novel traces the very different lives of Irene's children and the people they come in contact with. At the same time, it reflects the ways New Zealand has changed in its attitudes and lifestyles. That means there is a lot going on here and heaps of characters to get to know. But Fiona Kidman is a writer with decades of experience and readers are in safe hands. A real family saga, it is poignant in some places, heartbreaking in others but always gritty and very human. What really brings the story to life is the quality of Fiona's writing. She's a poet who chooses her words carefully, but there is also a lightness and warmth to her prose that makes it a pleasure to read. I think this is a novel for mothers, daughters and grandmothers to pass on to each other. All will draw something slightly different from it. Read over a short period of time - it's perfect for a rainy weekend or your next holiday.

Nicky Pellegrino, New Zealand's Woman's Weekly

Highly respected New Zealand author Fiona Kidman brings our history alive in the pages of her latest fictitious offering. . . . Heart-breaking, challenging, dark and yet frail humanity shines through these pages.

Wairarapa Times-Age Weekend

Dame Fiona Kidman's latest chart topper is a bold, meaty work. At heart, it's the narrative of one family, headed by matriarch Irene Sandle, told across 55 years of social and cultural history. A novel of 14 chapters, it's also clearly a collection of 14 interconnected stories. Each offers a narrative linked to a family member. . . This is a structure as clever as it is simple . . . Kidman's plotting of women's lives and experiences in All Day at the Movies - and her wider oeuvre - is emotionally and intellectually enriching, especially given New Zealand's close connection to the history of female emancipation. . . Throughout, the author's attention to detail and meticulous research are apparent but never self-evident. All Day at the Movies is a rich, responsive read. Part-personal story of family, part-political exploration of attitudes and prejudices, it is always uplifting. Even when it takes us to bitter, callous moments in time, the author's optimism in humanity prevails.

Siobhan Harvey, Dominion Post

The narrative is set against a background of events in New Zealand - the war, the waterfront strike in 1951, the anti-nuclear protests, and the anti apartheid protests that all shape the storyline. But more important in the novel are the family and social issues of poverty, abuse, adoption, drugs and mental health. Kidman's plot is well-wrought and her exploration of these issues is compassionate and honest. . . . I found this book absorbing and rewarding.

Lynda Stallworthy, Hawke's Bay Weekend

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found the snippets of New Zealand history fascinating, particularly the descriptions of tobacco farming and the Springbok tour.

Gisborne Herald

If you want to read a novel that’s very much about our country, its landscapes and its recent history, then All Day at the Movies by Fiona Kidman (Penguin Random House, RRP $38) is my recommendation. It’s a family saga that begins in the wake of World War II as widowed Irene Sandle arrives in Motueka to work as a tobacco picker. Covering six decades, the story traces the diverse lives of Irene, her children and some of the people they come in contact with. It’s told episodically, and is the story of New Zealand and its changing attitudes and lifestyles, as much as it is the characters that people it. One of our leading authors, Fiona writes literary fiction but here she proves that doesn’t have to mean overly highbrow or dull. It’s a pacey read, poignant and gritty, and never remotely dull.

Nicky Pellegrino, NZ Woman's Weekly

An impeccably crafted New Zealand family saga spanning the decades from the 1950s to the present. Kidman chronicles the ways that social and political pressures shape a life - for better or worse - and how the past seeps (sometimes invisibly) into the present, wielding subtle influence on a whole new generation. An impressive novel: highly readable, while also satisfyingly complex and interesting.

Sue Wootton, The Star, Dunedin

For more than half a century, Dame Fiona Kidman has been one of New Zealand's most outstanding writers, and with her latest novel, All Day at the Movies, she delivers more of her exquisite prose and smooth, absorbing storytelling. . . . Each chapter is a distinct episode that reveals a little more of the complex, yet completely relatable, lives of Irene's offspring. Another enriching read from the grande dame of New Zealand modern-day literature.

Australian Woman's Weekly

le roman possède une profondeur que l'on retrouve dans peu d'ouvrages actuels et . . . de certaines grandes oeuvres du XIXe siècle. / The novel possesses a depth found in few contemporary works and . . . certain great works of the nineteenth century.


Chaque nouveau roman de cette grand écrivaine néo-zélanaise . . . est in événement . . . Fiona Kidman raconte la vie souvent dramatique de ces femmes dans une société en pleine évolution sociale et politique. Sa plume subtile dépeint des personnages complexes que les secrets de famille lient à jamais et auxquels le lecteur s'attache immediatement. Un livre inoubliable . . . / Each new novel from this great New Zealander is an event. . . . Fiona Kidman tells the often dramatic life of these women in a society in full social and political evolution. Her subtle pen depicts complex characters bound for ever by family secrets and to whom the reader immediately becomes attached. An unforgettable book . . .

Version Fémina

With its fluid and warm writing, the great novelist Fiona Kidman deals with the cascade of consequences, the imprint left by each generation on the status and survival of an offspring.

Liliane Kerjan, En attendant Nadeau

It is a universal and honest book and one I'm sure you'll want to share and discuss. (...) What you get when reading All Day at the Movies is an intimate portrait of one family over time, trying to reach back to the past for some fragment of understanding.

San Francisco Book Review

A truly gifted writer. She explores the subtleties of human interaction and family with a deft and insightful hand.

Trip Fiction

Awards & recognition

NZ Heritage Book Awards

Awarded  •  2016  •  NZ Heritage Book Awards

International Dublin Literary Award

Longlisted  •  2018  •  Dublin Literary Award