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A 'wonderfully evocative novel' - Next

Acclaimed by critics as 'beautifully written', 'innovative' and 'profoundly moving', this novel is about the ways we are influenced in early life and can connect to others through shared experience.

A woman rows across a lake with a small part-Asian child. The woman is Violet Trench, who in future years will run the Violet Café with an iron will. Those who work in her café come from a diverse range of backgrounds, but each with their own troubles and each affected by working for this enigmatic woman. Her influence takes Jessie Sandal on dangerous journeys to the Far East, and to another stretch of water to be crossed with a small part-Asian child.

Although the characters go their separate ways, they never forget the flavour of that summer working at the café, like the secret, surprising allure of the truffle that infused the food there.


Songs from the Violet Cafe is a fine book beautifully written. From the “uneasy earth” of Rotorua to the “immense bright terrifying landscape” of Cambodia, the novel’s settings are vivid and adroit. It contains much potential sensation – domestic violence, illicit sexual connections, deaths and disappearances, and the desolation and venality of a country at war – but there’s also a wry humour, every intense emotion and extreme event filitered through Kidman’s cool precise prose.

Dominion Post

Fiona Kidman is a novelist writing at the peak of her powers …The ease with which Kidman weaves together the different characters and locations of her story would be sufficient to set this novel apart, but it is her depiction of the larger shadows hanging over her characters’ lives that gives this novel its real brilliance.

Canvas, NZ Herald

This wonderfully evocative novel . . . has been well worth waiting for. Fiona Kidman’s characters are rich in personality, and the carefully observed details of their lives and behaviour – as well as the landscapes and times they live in - bring a sense of depth.

Next Magazine

Kidman is at the peak of her considerable powers. This is a cleverly structured novel, converging upon the central episode in much the same way as scientists have the universe contracting to a dense hole which explodes and expands again. At its heart is the power of sexual love.

John McCrystal, North & South

Fiona Kidman’s new novel is fresh, innovative and quite unique amongst the current crop of New Zealand novels…From the very first page, there is a sense of narrative mystery overlaid with a sense of regret for the passing of time that I found profoundly moving. We are given graphic glimpses into multiple lives that somehow connect and part, then come together again, very much in the same way that layers of memory are built up into remembrance of times past. A terrific read.

Beryl Fletcher, Waikato Times

The novel sweeps across half a century and travels around the world and back again. It is a work of vision and maturity that tells a compelling story with a lightness of touch and a delight in the sensuous things of life - food, clothes, sex – that help the reader to assimilate its larger, more sombre purpose.

Weekend Herald

Songs from the Violet Cafe is a work of consummate skill. Like a maker of fine lace, Kidman twists each thread of her plot – leaving some dangling while she gathers up others, weaving and criss-crossing each other until they meet to create a superbly crafted centre piece.

The Daily Post

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Formats & editions

  • EBook


    October 3, 2014

    Random House New Zealand

    272 pages

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