> Skip to content

'incredibly well crafted and as is traditional with Owen Marshall every single word is placed perfectly' - NZ Radio

Brilliantly tracing the progress of unexpected love and the perils of relationships, this gripping novel is a tour de force.

Temporarily in Auckland while her husband is undergoing treatment, Sarah enjoys a walk in the coolness of the Symonds Street Cemetery. As she pauses at the grave of Emily Keeling, murdered in 1886 by a rejected suitor, a stranger named Hartley strikes up a conversation. Before long he arranges to meet Sarah for coffee.

So their friendship begins, and soon blossoms into an affair, rich in mutual understanding and sexual excitement. But love may become obsession, which brings with it disquieting demands, even menace.

‘When love is not madness, it is not love.’


The deft hand of one of New Zealand’s finest writers is everywhere in this deceptively simply told story of one woman’s transgression and one man’s unravelling. As the novel moves towards its climax the question is not if or when it will all end, but how.

Helen Speirs, Otago Daily Times

Owen Marshall: draws characters with near photographic realism. It is through the eye of a supremely empathetic god that Owen Marshall narrates his excellent latest novel Love as a Stranger. We are favoured with a view of the inner lives of two people as they find themselves fated to reiterate one of the oldest human stories. . . . the profound understanding of how the undercurrents of our personalities are mirrored on the surface . . . it is empathy that is the engine of Marshall's fiction, which enables him to make statements about the human condition that resound with the authority of aphorism. . . . His strongest work has always been informed by a sense of the paradoxical emptiness and richness of ordinary lives, of the sheer pleasure of being in spite of death and all its negations. . . . And that is the appeal at the heart of this novel, and in the end, at the heart of the human condition.

John McCrystal, NZ Listener

. . . another treat . . . incredibly well crafted and as is traditional with Owen Marshall every single word is placed perfectly . . . Every word perfect.

Sonja de Friez, Radio NZ

This is a wonderful story of human nature from Owen Marshall. It's also a study in writing as he builds the tension, page by page, exploring the lives of two ordinary people and creating both a love story and a thriller. The tension is in the mundane and it's easy to have empathy for both characters. This is a brilliant, enthralling piece of writing, as you would expect from an award-winning novelist, short story writer, poet and anthologist. Highly recommended.

Kerre McIvor, New Zealand Woman's Weekly

It is a love story, which becomes slightly dark and sinister as the story develops. It covers the themes of attraction and obsession, loss, jealousy and dysfunction. A great read.

Gisborne Herald

Love as a Stranger is a splendidly managed social portrait, shrewdly observed and gently described. It is also an excellent unfurling thriller as we are forced to witness an unravelling that will have uncertain and fearful consequences. Simple domestic situations develop Hitchcockian menace when we can no longer be secure in the romantic conventions that the novel invokes, only to subvert them in excruciating and unrelenting ways. We can't say we weren't warned: if it is not madness, it is not love. But, even as Marshall quickens the blood with his unfolding story, the novel brings a more enduring sense of tragedy and asks serious and poignant questions about how we conduct ourselves when we only have one life to live.

Murray Bramwell, NZ Books

Owen Marshall is widely acknowledged as this country's preeminent short story writer. It's his skill for accurately charting the nuances, affirmations and dysfunctions of human behaviour and relationships which is often the hallmark of his stories' excellence. As the author's new book, Love as a Stranger proves, he effortlessly and expertly translates this dexterity into the longer novel form. . . . Pragmatism meets idealism: this pair cancels each other's faults out, making their unusual late in life love affair positive, perfectly understandable and compulsively readable. More than this, though, Love as a Stranger's success relies upon the details of the relationship itself . . . Along the way, themes of attraction and compulsion, loss, jealousy and dysfunction dominate. Love as a Stranger starts as a sweet, albeit mature narrative about love, but it grows fabulously into a well-plotted study of the dark sides of human psychology.

Weekend Press

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    March 28, 2016

    RHNZ Vintage

    304 pages

    RRP $38.00

    Online retailers

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

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    March 28, 2016

    Random House New Zealand

    304 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle NZ
    • Google Play EBook NZ
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ

Awards and Recognition

  • Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
    Ockham Book Awards

Also by Owen Marshall