> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 2 May 2014
  • ISBN: 9781775535829
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $37.99

Carnival Sky




'Big themes are treated delicately — mortality and memory, grief and self-discovery' - Weekend Herald

Beautifully written, brilliantly observed and ultimately optimistic, this novel by one of New Zealand's finest writers powerfully captures those times when death puts life on hold.

Sheff is disillusioned with journalism and, with plans to travel overseas, chucks in his job. But first he goes south to Alexandra, where his father is dying. He becomes caught up with his family in the agonising inertia of waiting for approaching death. Slowly he comes to terms with suppressed issues of loss, love, resentment and commitment, and acknowledges he must reach out for new relationships. Sheff's gradual transformation - sometimes darkly humorous, sometimes disconcerting - is handled with insight and subtlety and is totally convincing.

  • Pub date: 2 May 2014
  • ISBN: 9781775535829
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $37.99

About the Author

Owen Marshall

Owen Marshall, described by Vincent O’Sullivan as ‘New Zealand’s best prose writer’, is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, poet and anthologist, who has written or edited 30 books, including the bestselling novel The Larnachs. Numerous awards for his fiction include the New Zealand Literary Fund Scholarship in Letters, fellowships at Otago and Canterbury universities, and the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship in Menton, France. In 2000 he became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for services to literature; in 2012 was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) and in 2013 received the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction. In 2000 his novel Harlequin Rex won the Montana New Zealand Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction. Many of his other books have been shortlisted for major awards, and his work has been extensively anthologised.

In addition, in 2003 he was the inaugural recipient of the Creative New Zealand Writers’ Fellowship, and was the 2009/10 Antarctica New Zealand Arts Fellow. In 2006 he was invited by the French Centre National du Livre to participate in their Les Belles Etranges festival and subsequent tour, anthology and documentary. He was the President of Honour of the New Zealand Society of Authors, 2007–08, and delivered the 2010 Frank Sargeson Memorial Lecture.

He was a school teacher for many years, having graduated with an MA (Hons) from the University of Canterbury, which in 2002 awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, and in 2005 appointed him an adjunct professor.

See more at www.owenmarshall.net.nz.

Many leading contemporary writers have counted themselves amongst his admirers, including Janet Frame and Fiona Kidman, who wrote of his work, ‘I find myself exclaiming over and again with delight at the precision, the beauty, the near perfection of his writing.’ Writer, historian and literary biographer Michael King wrote of Marshall, ‘Quite simply the most able and the most successful exponent of the short story currently writing in New Zealand.’ In World Literature Today, Carolyn Bliss described Marshall as a writer who ‘speaks with equal intensity to the unbearable loveliness and malevolence of life’. Writer and academic Vincent O’Sullivan has claimed ‘nobody tells our [New Zealand] stories better’.

When Gravity Snaps, a collection of short stories that was runner-up for the 2003 Deutz Medal for Fiction, was described by Gordon McLauchlan in the Weekend Herald as displaying ‘the gift of telling stories that take hold of you in a personal way and bring echoes of people, places and events you have known, but not paid enough attention to at the time. It is a magical heightening of the ordinary.’

The short story collection Watch of Gryphons and Other Stories, shortlisted for the 2006 Montana Book Awards, ranges over a rich variety of subjects and settings, from Perugia’s ancient ruins to the South Island’s empty tussocklands, and displays the nuanced emotions which typify Marshall’s writing. The next collection, Living As a Moon, also shifts between European and Antipodean settings.

David Eggleton wrote of Owen’s poetry in The New Zealand Listener, ‘Marshall weighs his words as if regarding you with a raised ironic eyebrow. The poems employ the same bluff, resilient, yet harmonious language as Marshall’s prose.’
Marshall’s third novel, Drybread, combined elements of the thriller alongside a love story, exploring the ‘ambiguities of relationships’ (The New Zealand Listener).

Kelly Ana Morey, reviewing his next novel, The Larnachs, in The New Zealand Herald, described it as ‘a thoughtful, tender love story with ... an awful lot of lovely, restrained writing by Marshall’. The book is a fictional treatment of real events in the nineteenth century, and John McCrystal in The New Zealand Listener noted: ‘The Larnachs is an interesting development for Marshall. For many years pigeon-holed as a writer of realist fiction from a masculine perspective, he has proved himself far more than a one-trick pony. He has published two volumes of poetry and The Larnarchs is his fourth novel. Half of it is written from a woman’s point of view.’

Marshall has compiled two anthologies, Essential New Zealand Short Stories and Best New Zealand Fiction #6, and collaborated with painter Grahame Sydney and poet Brian Turner on Timeless Land, an appreciation of the landscapes of the Central South Island, which has been published in multiple editions.

Also by Owen Marshall

See all

Praise for Carnival Sky

“This is not an eye-catching, attention-seeking novel but one that is distinguished by its wry tone, and an abundance of beautiful observations and memorable descriptions. Marshall’s great achievement is to have told a story about the biggest of themes – life, love, death, family – using the most restrained of palettes and on the smallest of canvases.”

Paul Little, North & South

“Owen Marshall’s Carnival Sky is beautifully written and brilliantly observed . . . Carnival Sky is a novel in which, to the unobservant or the skimming reader, little seems to happen, but things are changing all the time. It is a novel that repays close reading, leaving a feeling of optimism despite dealing with loss and resentment, for it also deals with love, compassion and commitment and the necessity for forging new relationships. Like his father’s tumbling stones, Sheff’s gradual transformation to a better and more colourful life, is complete.”

Dorothy Alexander, Manawatu Standard

“Exquisitely crafted, Carnival Sky cuts to the heart of grief, seen through a quintessential Kiwi bloke’s eye.”

Waikato Times

“In most respects, Carnival Sky is, thus, vintage Marshall. It has all his trademark acuity. Life lifts off the page in tireless vignettes of ordinary existence. Ah yes, you say to yourself, I recognise this. This is how it is. As usual, realism is his mode of transport beneath life’s oceans. . . [Sheff's] emergence from emptiness is the book’s trajectory – a worthy and true trajectory, albeit so slight that one scarcely notices it until right at the end where one realises he has successfully traversed from awkwardness to easefulness. And that, truly, is a lovely realisation.”

Margie Thomson, Dominion Post

“Big themes are treated delicately — mortality and memory, grief and self-discovery — and, although the book is, at its heart, about a man in the midst of a crisis, Carnival Sky also explores the universal pain many adults feel when faced with losing a parent. . . . The small cast confront the meaning of life (and death) and learn how, in times of grief, the search for normality is sometimes all that’s left to us. It’s also about holding tight to the things we hold dear and letting go of the things that hold us back. Owen Marshall earned his reputation as one of our brightest literary stars long ago and Carnival Sky reinforces his place in that firmament.”

Elisabeth Easther, Weekend Herald

“Carnival Sky is a beautiful book.”

alysontheblog, https://alysontheblog.wordpress.com/


Related titles