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  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143774747
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.00

The Calling

A novel about finding your calling, the extraordinary nun Mother Mary Joseph Aubert, and the realities of religious bigotry in late-nineteenth century New Zealand.

‘Dreams were dangerous things.’

It was the dream of Molly’s dying mother that she would become a nun. It isn’t, however, the dream of her Methodist father, who wants her to marry.

But what is her true calling and how can she follow it?

As the 19th century draws to an end, Molly searches out the extraordinary nun Mother Mary Joseph Aubert to find out.

‘One of the most consistently accomplished and versatile writers for teenagers in the country’ – The New Zealand Listener

  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143774747
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $22.00

About the author

Fleur Beale

Fleur Beale is the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults — she has published more than 40 books in New Zealand, as well as in the United States and England. A former high school teacher, Fleur was inspired to write her acclaimed novel I Am Not Esther when one of her students was beaten and expelled from his family for going against their religious beliefs. Fleur is a leading advocate for New Zealand authors, and home-grown literature for children and young adults.

Also by Fleur Beale

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Praise for The Calling

It's a very thought-provoking historical fiction chapter book by the highly regarded author Fleur Beale . . . a very, very interesting story of New Zealand history . . . it can be seen as a story about the people in your life who help shape your decisions . . . as historical fiction it is extremely well researched but the subtitle 'torn between duty and desire' sums it up exactly. It just raises so may points for discussion . . . fantastic for our schools, we gain a rich insight into the life at that time . . . It's a fantastic story. I loved it. [Molly is] a resilient, resourceful girl, she's not feisty but she's a determined achiever . . . I actually learned quite a lot from it. The writing seems effortless . . . It's superb.

Joanna Ludbrook, Nine to Noon, Radio NZ

Historical fiction at its brilliant best, The Calling captured me early and took me on a trip back in time to late 19th Century NZ. Set in a small kiwi town, life in the Conway house, Molly’s fervent desire to follow her mother’s wishes, and her growing uncertainty about that path, was expertly written and real. I experienced life in 1895, with its religious bigotry, and society expectations for women. Swagmen roamed the roads, hungry and looking for work and the divide between rich and poor didn’t correlate with levels of kindness. Each chapter of the book begins with snippets of the times, whether it be a newspaper report, encyclopedia entries, a recipe for scones, or even a guide on waterproofing boots. Fleur Beale is a well loved, accomplished and much awarded YA Kiwi Author. The Calling is another astounding piece of New Zealand YA Fiction.

Adele Broadbent, whatbooknext.com

Multi-award winning, Wellington-based author Fleur Beale has crafted an inspiring tale of a young girl, Molly Conway, as she struggles with her faith in the face of many difficulties. Throughout the story, readers experience inner conflict, abuse and religious troubles, as seen through the life of Molly, while the integration of te reo along with the real-life roots of the story, makes this an absorbing and immersive read. . . . I admit I was hesitant to read this novel. As an avid fantasy reader, a story about religion based on real life people and events was vastly out of my range of preferred genres, but I gave it a go. I found that the short chapters and fast-paced storytelling made for an easy and gripping read. I recommend this novel to step out of your comfort zone and expand your genres when reading.

Link Pickering, Kete.co.nz

There is something to be said for sticking with what you know, and doing it well. Exceptionally well, in Fleur Beale’s case. The acclaimed author of the I am not Esther series has just released a new young adult novel dealing with religious bigotry, questioning faith, and a coming-of-age girl’s place in it. . . She integrates a concept that many older readers can possibly identify with today; the question of what is it that you want, and what is it that others have put on you to want? Sometimes the line is grey and murky. . . . When I received this book in the mail I had high hopes and I was not disappointed. For anyone that liked Beale’s other books, or has a passing interest in the period dramas on Netflix, this is worth a read.

Eleanor Bassett, Hooked on NZ Books, Read NZ

Well-suited for a TV mini-series . . . While the book is a fictionalised account, the storyline nonetheless is a somewhat fascinating look at the not-so-distant past, particularly around the lower North Island. A well-put-together story and one that surprisingly becomes a page-turner.

Farm Trader

There are very few young people and children’s writing awards that Beale hasn’t won in a career that spans more than 30 years and 40 books. While many of her stories are set in the contemporary world – with young people facing the trials and tribulations of modern life – Beale has also looked to the past, and religion, as an inspiration. In The Calling, Beale steps back in time to late 19th century Aotearoa New Zealand to centre on the story of Molly, who struggles to find her life’s path after her dying mother pleads with her to become a nun, while her Methodist father wants her to marry. Torn between parental wishes and societal expectations, Molly seeks out the extraordinary (and real-life) nun Mother Mary Joseph Aubert for help.

Kete, Sunday Star-Times

Fleur Beale is one of my favourite New Zealand authors; she never disappoints . . . The Calling meets my expectations-a thoroughly good read . . . [Molly] is constantly challenged and her self-doubts and questioning give the reader a good understanding of what it must have been like to be a woman in those times-the expectations of others, duty and obedience to one's parents, and the attitudes of society. . . . Beale creates some wonderful characters and you are drawn to them. . . [she] has honoured the character of Mother Aubert, who was a friend and mentor to all. . . This is a story about understanding self and following your own heart, not what others think you should do.

Rosemary Tisdall, Magpies

Beale captures the constraints of the times, especially on a teenage girl in a young New Zealand rural area who is left to run the household after her mother dies. Molly is determined to follow what she considers her calling to become a nun and seeks out Mother Mary to help her make her decision. It's a really good read about a very different time.

Linda Thompson, Napier Courier

Author Fleur Beale's homage to New Zealand's saint-in-the-making is set against the miserable, mud-soaked years of the Long Depression, when out of work lawyers knocked on doors begging for food, fires were a constant threat and everyday life was a hard slog. . . . Beale's historical research, down to the finest detail of life in pioneering rural communities . . . is discreetly supported by head-of-chapter quotes . . . A tantalising introduction to the Frenchwoman who crossed the world in search of her calling, and to her legacy of love. It's a sweet romance, too.

Ann Packer, NZ Listener

The Calling is beautifully written and creatively articulates how hard it was to be a young woman 100 years ago. As we follow our protagonist, Molly Conway, we watch her struggle with hardship after hardship as she journeys her way down the path God has set her on. I particularly enjoyed seeing her come to terms with the fact that she was living out her mother’s dream and not her own and how that affected her life’s path. Molly is a brave young woman and seeing her choose the right over the easy, time and time again, is empowering. . . . The Calling is a brilliant book and a great read. When Fleur Beale came to my school and read us the first chapter, I was really excited to see the way Molly’s story would play out — and I can confidently say that I wasn’t disappointed. I believe that this is a book many teenagers would enjoy . . .

Caitlyn Mills, year 11, St Mary's College, Tui Motu Interislands

Awards & recognition

Storylines Notable Book Award

Awarded  •  2021  •  Storylines Notable Book

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