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'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.


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/

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    May 2, 2014

    RHNZ Vintage

    272 pages

    RRP $37.99

    Online retailers

    • Mighty Ape
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    • Whitcoulls
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    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    May 2, 2014

    Random House New Zealand

    296 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • iBooks NZ
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    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia NZ

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