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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

Reviews

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

This is a brave, brilliant book, the third that Fiona Farrell has produced dealing with the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath in the seven years that have unfolded since they occurred. The story follows the lives of people who inhabit a house that stands between 1906 and 2012. The end is desolation, but much has gone on in the house that reflects the unfolding history of a city, and in the story of a people it is lucid, beautiful and compassionate. I acknowledge that each book in a competition should be judged on its own merits. Nevertheless, it is difficult to dissociate Decline & Fall on Savage Street from The Broken Book and The Villa at the Edge of the Empire and not salute Farrell’s collective statement about what has happened to Christchurch; it is history as it happens and, in chronicling the events in human terms, one of New Zealand’s great writers has created what I believe will be an enduring record that will be referred to by generations to come. But, also, as a stand alone novel, Decline & Fall succeeds on it own merits.

Fiona Kidman, Judges report for the NZ Fiction Heritage Prize 2017

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9780143770626

    July 31, 2017

    RHNZ Vintage

    368 pages

    RRP $38.00

    Online retailers

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  • EBook

    9780143770633

    July 31, 2017

    Random House New Zealand

    368 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Google Play
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    • Booktopia NZ
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    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

Extract

. . . sand dune, left behind as the sea receded to the east. It wavers, a stretch of high, dry ground, across swampland. At its foot runs a river.

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Also by Fiona Farrell

Light Readings
The Villa At the Edge of the Empire
The Strange Case of the Disappearing Body
The Hopeful Traveller
Limestone
Mr Allbones' Ferrets
Book Book
Six Clever Girls Who Became Famous Women
The Skinny Louie Book (Penguin Award Winning Classics)

Recommendations

The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
The Girl on the Train
The Golden House
Dragonfly In Amber
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
Swing Time
The Mistress
Tiger Men
The Golden Age
Fifty Shades Darker
A Long Way from Home
Uncommon Type
The Trip of a Lifetime
The Light Between Oceans
Line of Fire
Ready Player One