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Tense and absorbing, this innovative novel brings a fresh approach to New Zealand writing.

Tense and absorbing, this innovative novel brings a fresh approach to New Zealand writing.

What happens when grief draws you to your partner’s married brother?

28 year-old Djuna is without a foothold. The suicide of her partner has left her derailed and casting about for the joy she fears may be gone for good. Her parents’ relationship has disintegrated, her family home is occupied by Burmese refugees, and she is drawn to the one man she must reject.

In pursuit of a roving father and a renewed sense of belonging, Djuna wanders from Wellington to the natural beauty of New Zealand’s remote East Cape. Narrated in vivid, confessional vignettes, The Salted Air tells a story of transgression, love and hope.


A person could so easily be attracted to this book by its cover. But no, we mustn't judge. Yet it turns out that designer Sam Bunny's haunting monochromatic cover image - plus two frontispiece images of a powerful, surging, confused sea conveys the tone perfectly. . . . What if a male writer, using first person female narrative, couldn't convincingly capture and sustain a questing female mind? Well, turns out - again - Thom Conroy can, and with exquisite confidence. . . . what I want to applaud most is Conroy's employment of the prose poem. This book presents a series of small, beautiful vignettes - lyrical, elegant, informed - each of which could practically stand alone. Yet all are pliantly linked to make this a novel - a love story of a unique kind.

Lyn Loates, Weekend Herald

Thom Conroy writes a prose so close to the lives of his characters it feels seamless. Djuna, with her family habit of keeping a journal, negotiates a formidable catalogue of loss, betrayal, flight, redemption without losing her eye for ‘the input of life and the sting of salt’. Zany headings: A call on the Maltese Falcon phone; On the banks of the most polluted river in the world add to the fun. Palmerston North should be celebrating.

Elizabeth Smither

It's just wonderful . . . Honestly, it just sings . . . completely believable . . . the prose is punchy, it's very dry and elegant . . . a really unique novel, a fresh, interesting story.

Sonja de Friez, Radio NZ

Landscape imagery suffuses their journey, washing with memories over the reader, overwhelming, which is perhaps the purpose. The presence of the sea is always there, the waves forever casting out and pulling back in. This echoes the strange waves of intimacy that continually lap throughout the story. The prose is exquisite. . . . As Djuna comes to realise, she is one small being 'bobbing along on the stream of life'; and in this, she is living, and experiencing, the simple details, the gift, of ordinariness.

Jessie Neilson, Takahe Magazine

It is like visiting an art gallery with each chapter a painting of something from before, or from after. Each chapter could stand alone as an example of beautiful writing. . . . By using the snapshot narrative structure to tell this tale, Conroy has produced a superb series of sketches through which we weave with Djuna. As a teacher, I could easily use each of the smaller chapters as an example of writing as craft. The language, the structure, the metaphor all come together to produce a true reading experience.

Kathy Watson, The Read, Booksellers NZ

Thom Conroy delivers more with less as his protagonist seeks emotional respite at the East Cape. . . Conroy has given Djuna a voice that feels real and engaging: a young woman coming to grips with adulthood and grief. . . The chapters are very short - sometime less than a page - mimicking diary entries and giving the novel the staccato feeling of a series of short glimpses rather than a sustained narrative. Despite this, Conroy manages to create a feeling of tension throughout the book, a sense that there are things hidden from Djuna's comprehension that are pulling the story along. . . . moments of real insight and poetry. . . . It is satisfying too to see Conroy working his craft.

Elizabeth Heritage, NZ Listener

Ultimately, The Salted Air is a book which peels back the skin of life to reveal hidden stories and muddled motives. . . Conroy deals with many of the ethical minefields of our times . . . its frequently surprising revelations become their own reward.

David Herkt, Waikato Times

The form and structure of The Salted Air work beautifully. Djuna's thoughts are like sketches and are presented like prose poems, some of them no longer than a paragraph, linking together like informal diary entries. This keeps the momentum and pace flowing. . . . Conroy does a superb job at conveying Djuna's inner emotional world and nails the female voice, which feels authentic.

Kiran Dass, NZ Books

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    May 30, 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 www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • EBook


    May 30, 2016

    RHNZ Adult ebooks

    304 pages

    Online retailers

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

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

Also by Thom Conroy

The Naturalist


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
A Gentleman in Moscow
Echo Burning
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Dragonfly In Amber
The Bear and The Nightingale
Swing Time
Fifty Shades Darker
Ready Player One
The Light Between Oceans
A Long Way from Home
The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Uncommon Type
The Secret Vineyard
Animal Farm