> Skip to content

Superb writing from a fiercely intelligent writer in the vanguard of New Zealand literature.

Riffing on truth, lies and secrets, this collection uses fiction to explore fact, and fact to explore fiction.

Fictional characters muse upon the truth behind real people, non-fiction pieces contain short interludes of fiction, fiction is written to read like an essay, made-up elements slip into true accounts. These pieces range the world – from America, to Antwerp to Aotearoa – and talk about writers and writing, famous figures, family members, witch-burning in Denmark, cyclones and numerous pertinent and stimulating topics. All brilliantly written, each will leave you thinking and desperate to jump back in for more.


Have I given the impression that this is a varied and interesting collection? I hope so. Of course, there are changes of tone, given that fiction is never quite the same as non-fiction and given that most of the contents first appeared in publications aimed at different audiences. But the sharp intelligence of the author, the skill in handling different genres, the factual research, the attention to telling detail and - yes - the tender regard for forebears are all here, and all make this a wonderful read.

Nicholas Reid, Weekend Press

A thread runs through Paula Morris' new collection of terse stories and interrogating essays False River - a strong current, if you like. Some of the pieces, as an author's warning note makes clear, began life as fiction but have since morphed into essays, while other essays have been published in the past as fiction. . . . clear-eyed, undaunted, strong. . . . Morris examines the stories we tell ourselves as a balm - a palliative bandage for raw wounds.

James Robins, Weekend Herald

This is an invigorating, sophisticated selection from a writer at the top of her form.

Paul Little, North and South

A new collection by Paula Morris mixes offbeat pilgrimages with personal tales. . . . Morris's mastery of bickering dialogue is both alarming and terribly funny. It adds yet another enriching dimension to this perceptive, sly and, yes, occasionally obsessive collection.

Linda Herrick, NZ Listener

pretty radical and thought-provoking . . . absolutely at the top of her craft . . . wry, or sly . . . good for our brains

Tilly Lloyd, National Radio

Morris . . . is a terrific essayist, knowing exactly how to drive the narrative on and compressing researched nuggets without clogging up the flow. The personal essays, such as those about her mother or father, are tender, sometimes sad but never maudlin, and revealing - about the author's own woes and maladies, about her needs as a daughter, as a writer. They feel very real. Her writing is never showy, drawing attention to itself by being needlessly convoluted or recondite - this is a talent in itself - but even the simpler stories are layered. . . . Morris's stories are full of incident and intrigue, and what you might call twists. . . . All throughout is humour, usually a wry wit within the storytelling if not the characters, but occasionally something more acid. Great characters, like Thea and Delia and May, you want to hear more from. And the author isn't afraid to leave her endings open. . . . It's a well-judged blend of stories.

Mark Broatch, NZ Books

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    October 30, 2017


    RRP $35.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

Short Story Club - 23 November

Read the story being discussed on Jesse Mulligan’s show on Radio New Zealand on 23 November 2017

Also by Paula Morris

Forbidden Cities
Queen of Beauty
New Zealand Girl: Hene and the Burning Harbour
Hibiscus Coast
Trendy But Casual


The Histories
Figures in a Landscape
Home and Away
Bit Rot
The Rub of Time
Late Essays
Dear Friend, From My Life I Write To You In Your Life
Being There
On Passion
On Doubt
When the Facts Change
Meanjin Vol 76 No 4
There It Is Again
Chronicles of a Liquid Society
Animals Strike Curious Poses
Meanjin Vol 76 No 2