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  • Published: 31 July 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143770626
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $38.00
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Decline and Fall on Savage Street




A fictional companion to The Villa at the Edge of the Empire and winner of the 2017 NZ Heritage Novel Award.

A fascinating prize-winning novel about a house with a fanciful little turret, built by a river.

Unfolding within its rooms are lives of event and emotional upheaval. A lot happens. And the tumultuous events of the twentieth century also leave their mark, from war to economic collapse, the deaths of presidents and princesses to new waves of music, art, architecture and political ideas.

Meanwhile, a few metres away in the river, another creature follows a different, slower rhythm.

And beneath them all, the planet moves to its own immense geological time.

With insight, wide-ranging knowledge and humour, this novel explores the same territory as its non-fiction twin, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire. Writing in a city devastated by major earthquakes, Fiona Farrell rebuilds a brilliant, compelling and imaginative structure from bits and pieces salvaged from one hundred years of history.

A lot has happened. This is how it might have felt.

'It's a work of incredible research and incredible scope and incredible feeling . . . it's really wonderful. It think we will look back at these two books [Decline and Fall on Savage Street and The Villa at the Edge of Empire] and think of them as being very important in our local literary history as marking time and place and moment and feeling; it's a wonderful piece of art.' - Louise O'Brien, Radio NZ
'It's so vast, it shouldn't work; but it does. Primarily this is because, rather than anchoring her text to dry, historical minutiae, Farrell chooses to ground it to people, particularly family. So, as well as the impressive detail made especially graceful thanks to the author's poetic skill, the narrative follows one house settled upon the titular street and its inhabitants, particularly one family, extended and diverse. As such, chapter by chapter are, like a relay team, an exercise in passing the chronological story along. . . . Wide-ranging yet intimate, poetic yet simple, of the singular home yet speaking to the complexities of city and nation, Decline and Fall on Savage Street is a remarkable read.' - Siobhan Harvey, Waikato Times

  • Pub date: 31 July 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143770626
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $38.00

About the Author

Fiona Farrell

Fiona Farrell is one of New Zealand’s leading writers, publishing work in a variety of genres. Her first novel, The Skinny Louie Book, won the 1993 New Zealand Book Award for fiction. Other novels, poetry and non-fiction books have been shortlisted for the Montana and New Zealand Post Book Awards with four novels also nominated for the International Dublin IMPAC Award. Farrell's short fiction has appeared in the company of Alice Munro and Hanif Kureishi in two volumes of Heinemann’s Best Short Stories (ed. Gordon and Hughes), while her poems feature in major anthologies including The Oxford Book of New Zealand Poetry and Bloodaxe’s best-selling Being Alive. Her play Chook Chook is one of Playmarket New Zealand’s most frequently requested scripts. Farrell lives with her partner on Banks Peninsula and since 2011 she has published three non-fiction titles relating to the Christchurch earthquakes: The Broken Book, The Quake Year and in 2015, The Villa At the Edge of the Empire, the factual half of a two-volume work examining the rebuilding of a city through the twinned lenses of non-fiction and fiction.

Fiona Farrell is a frequent guest at festivals in New Zealand, and has also appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Vancouver International Writers’ Festival. Fiona received an Arts Council Scholarship in Letters in 1991, and has held residencies in France (1995 Katherine Mansfield Fellowship to Menton) and Ireland (2006 Rathcoola Residency). Fiona was the 2011 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. In 2007 Fiona Farrell received the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction. She was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for 'services to literature' in the Queen's Birthday and Diamond Jubilee Honours List 2012 and in 2013 Fiona was awarded the Michael King Writers Fellowship.

In his New Zealand Herald review of Limestone, David Hill said that Farrell ‘writes richly, sensuously. She adds things in, rather than leaving things out . . . the plot is springy and inventive, characters are engaging (or engagingly repellent), language is witty, chatty, and flecked with that characteristic Fiona Farrell subversive mischief.’ The Sunday Star Times wrote of Book Book: ‘There’s something quotable on every page . . . a deeply pleasurable, one-of-its-kind masterpiece.’

Beryl Fletcher, in the Waikato Times, praised Farrell for having ‘. . . the rare ability of turning the mundane events of domestic life into profound human experiences. Her writing is poetic, moving and literary.’

Also by Fiona Farrell

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Praise for Decline and Fall on Savage Street

“It's a work of incredible research and incredible scope and incredible feeling . . . it's really wonderful. It think we will look back at these two books [Decline and Fall on Savage Street and The Villa at the Edge of Empire] and think of them as being very important in our local literary history as marking time and place and moment and feeling; it's a wonderful piece of art.”

Louise O'Brien, Radio NZ

“It's so vast, it shouldn't work; but it does. Primarily this is because, rather than anchoring her text to dry, historical minutiae, Farrell chooses to ground it to people, particularly family. So, as well as the impressive detail made especially graceful thanks to the author's poetic skill, the narrative follows one house settled upon the titular street and its inhabitants, particularly one family, extended and diverse. As such, chapter by chapter are, like a relay team, an exercise in passing the chronological story along. . . . Wide-ranging yet intimate, poetic yet simple, of the singular home yet speaking to the complexities of city and nation, Decline and Fall on Savage Street is a remarkable read.”

Siobhan Harvey, Waikato Times

“The intricate subtleties of private lives intertwine with the twists and turns of history, from the Great Depression to the Springbok Tour and the fall of the Twin Towers, as the house and its residents slide down and then up the social scale. . . . As the quakes take hold, Farrell's writing is at its finest. Flowing and apparently effortless, never self-consciously clever or intrusively overwrought, the expertly rendered detail is supported by strong foundations. She's particularly good at the difficult job of writing about children and teenagers, caught between the shifting earth and their destabilised parents, trying to make the best of their broken surroundings. The repeated blows endured by the house, the family and their community both generate and reveal deep fractures in lives and relationships.”

Anne Else, NZ Listener

“Decline & Fall on Savage Street follows the wonderfully engaging stories of the individuals and families, their inner and outer lives, who inhabit a house on the titular Savage Street. . . . If you have any interest in New Zealand social history, any interest in the Christchurch quakes or the rise of neo-liberalism, or if you just love good fiction, read this book.”

NZ Doctor

“Farrell's work is immensely readable. Her writing is simple and effective and flows beautifully. Her characters are well-drawn, the setting familiar, yet nonetheless fascinating, and the format ensures a natural pull to the finish. . . This is at once a captivating and poignant story and social commentary. Farrell reflects on progress and loss, the circle of life. Her love for Christchurch is evident, but her anger at various bureaucratic bunglings is never far from the surface.”

Helen Speirs, Otago Daily Times

“Farrell is a clever writer this book made me laugh, smile, feel sad and want to go back for more.”

Linda Hall, Manawatu Guardian

“Selected as one of the '100 Best Books of 2017'.”

Russell Baillie, NZ Listener

“Fiona Farrell is a marvellously inventive writer . . . Decline and Fall on Savage Street should not be approached as a conventional novel. . . . It races along at a rapid pace, introducing a plethora of characters. . . . As if it were a house itself, the book depends heavily on its architectural design. . . . Always, the language is light and inventive. There are flashes of humour and thunderbolts of anger . . . The book is a work of great maturity, wisdom and insight.”

Stephanie Johnson, Landfall


Awards & Recognition

  • International Dublin Literary Award

    Longlisted • 2019 • Dublin Literary Award


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