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Comeuppance comes from unexpected directions.

This entertaining and insightful novel both skewers and celebrates small-town New Zealand.

Pat `Pearly' Gates has achieved a lot in his life and evinces considerable satisfaction in his achievements. He has a reputation as a former Otago rugby player and believes he would have been an All Black but for sporting injuries. He runs a successful real-estate agency in a provincial South Island town, of which he is the second-term mayor. Popular, happily married, well established, he cuts an impressive figure, especially in his own eyes.

But will his pride and complacency come before a fall?


At its core, Pearly Gates surveys the human mindset, particularly sensibilities which are restricted by ambition, curtailed career, ageing and geography. Marshall's prose, which is as unadorned as the book's everyday lead, perfectly suits this careful cerebral uncovering. . . Pearly Gates offers us rural "mainland" life, its people and psychologies, the foibles and fortes. . . .As Marshall examines the good and bad sides of humanity, a gentle paced, deceptively dark novel ensues.

Siobhan Harvey, Weekend Herald

As with the big Canterbury sky, the shifts in Owen Marshall's world are slow and subtle. . . . Pearly Gates is a slow burn, utterly proficient in its characterisation, undramatic in its demonstration of the chinks in Pearly's homespun armour. . . . Pearly's self-regard is undone as Marshall's seventh novel takes the threads of his character's self assumption and gently pulls.

Sally Blundell, NZ Listener

Although there is much sharp-eyed and droll observation of small-town folk and foibles, this is really the story of a man on a journey towards understanding himself. . . . There is a lot of wisdom in these pages on all sorts of matters . . .

Paul Little, North & South

Owen Marshall carefully and with quietly dignified humour outlines life in a provincial Otago town. Marshall incrementally builds up small-town life, and the bustle, supposition, speculation, and all that it encompasses. Pearly is a gentle and affable if stuck-in-his-ways main character. While not holding the keys to heaven, he knows he is gatekeeper of the smooth running of the town and its people, and it is up to him, with his benevolent smile, to figure out how to do this, faltering as he strides on.

Jessie Neilson, Otago Daily Times

Owen Marshall pokes gentle fun at provincial New Zealand, while exploring the personalities, with all their strengths and weaknesses, of those people at the heart of our communities. . . . While Marshall gently prods Pearly's inner self, his vanities, foibles and sins, his regrets and kindnesses, what is revealed is a picture of a man who is not just good or bad, but a mixture of those traits. . . . While this novel doesn't provide any murders to be solved, or romances to swoon over, it does paint us a picture of a Kiwi town and its people that is as exquisite as that used for the cover, Lemon Meringue Pie, by Christchurch artist Hamish Allan.

Diane McCarthy, Eastern Bay Life

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    February 5, 2019

    RHNZ Vintage

    288 pages

    RRP $38.00

    Online retailers

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

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.co.nz

  • EBook


    February 5, 2019

    Random House New Zealand

    288 pages

    Online retailers

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


When Pearly was in a north-facing upstairs bedroom, he saw through the window a woman come briskly to the neighbour’s back door, which opened without the need for her to pause on entry.

He knew her, though. It was Deidre Utterspan.

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Book Clubs
Pearly Gates - Book Club Guide

NZ author and poet Owen Marshall shares with us some questions to get the ball rolling in a book club discussion for his latest Novel, Pearly Gates.

Also by Owen Marshall