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  • Published: 31 May 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143778561
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $37.00

Winter Time

Set in the Mackenzie Basin, this vivid novel is about familial love, friendship and how our lives touch, connect and impact upon one another.

‘The SUV advanced, without slowing as it passed; the driver probably didn’t even register him. Roland watched until it reached the canal crossing, where the curve of the hill and the trees swallowed it up. And then he was alone with his frosted breathing, the mist, another breath, a sob.’
Having returned to the Mackenzie Country to deal with the unexpected death of his brother, Roland has more than enough on his plate. He could do without the demands of a cantankerous neighbour, the complaints of his partner back in Australia and discovering that someone is impersonating him online, stirring up the locals against him.

Even the weather is hostile, rendering roads unpassable and his old home an icebox, the fire offering little comfort. And yet, when cycling on the empty roads, cocooned in a snow-muffled landscape, he finds he can confront what he actually feels.

A vivid novel about familial love, friendship and how our lives touch, connect and impact upon one another.

  • Published: 31 May 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143778561
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $37.00

About the author

Laurence Fearnley

Laurence Fearnley is an award-winning novelist. Her novel The Hut Builder won the fiction category of the 2011 NZ Post Book Awards. In 2014 her novel Reach was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and, in 2008, Edwin and Matilda was runner-up in the fiction category of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Her second novel, Room, was shortlisted for the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. In 2004 Fearnley was awarded the Artists to Antarctica Fellowship and in 2007 the Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago. In 2016 she won the NZSA/ Janet Frame Memorial Award and in 2017 she was the joint winner of the Landfall essay competition. She was named a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2019. She lives in Dunedin.

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Praise for Winter Time

Why do so many South Island writers evoke place so vividly? Maybe it's the iron winters. Or the high, blue-and-gold summers. Or the contrast between the two. . . . They stand insistently in the quiet, accomplished fiction of Laurence Fearnley as well. Winter Time, her new novel – her 11th, I think, so let's pause for some appropriate applause – is immediate with the “frosted breath...mist,” black lakes and white peaks of the Mackenzie Country. . . . Roland is a pretty daring creation. He's loyal, persistent, perceptive but largely ineffectual. He sees a lot, achieves only a little. His vulnerability and intermittent fragility are an intriguing inversion of the trad protagonist and Fearnley uses this adroitly in an increasingly nuanced, nervy plot. . . . As always, Fearnley's prose is precise, spare, springy with cadences of colloquial Kiwispeak, yet resonant with imagery. She's a quiet writer, never showy, building her moods and participants unobtrusively, steadily. There's even the odd and engaging bit of pawky comedy; enjoy the leaking wheat bag. A novel of side roads, both topographical and emotional. Thoughtful motifs of belonging or failing to belong – to places and/or people. Respectful and crafted. All as I'd expect from Laurence Fearnley.

David Hill, Kete Books

Laurence Fearnley has an acute eye for capturing the natural and human worlds, and Winter Time, her latest novel, is no exception. . . . Winter Time – it’s the second in a planned series of books loosely based on the five senses, this one involving touch, so various levels of irony are involved – explores those threads that bind us to others, and what happens when those threads unravel. Fearnley’s keen observations of human frailty, coupled with her evocative natural descriptions, the harsh elements proving a character in their own right, add layers of poignancy to this tenderly harrowing tale. And yet despite Roland’s deep grief, the vindictive social media storm and the savage neighbour with her ancient grudge and greasy mugs, the author’s prose and storytelling skills endow this tale with more than a kernel of hope.

Elisabeth Easther, NZ Listener

Winter Time reads like a love song to the mountains, to the untouched beauty of the natural world. There’s discussion in the novel about the conflict between those who are pro-development and the Nimbys, who want nothing to change, which works neatly with the themes of the destructive properties of nature versus the destructive nature of humans.


This is an intriguing novel with much of the drama taking place in countryside that will be familiar to South Islanders – the Mackenzie. Laurence Fearnley writes as someone who is more than familiar with the high country, the weather, the landscape, the people, the solitude and the silence. This skill makes for an atmospheric description: you can feel the cold. Place names like Tekapo, Timaru and Aviemore allow the reader to recall as well as to imagine. The novel centres on Roland, brought up near Tekapo, his family, friends and former friends, neighbours old and new, and his overbearing partner Leon in Sydney. He returns to the family home after the unexpected death of his brother, wanting to uncover various truths and to decide on the home and his future. He encounters resentment, opposition and is dangerously set up online with someone posting under his name. Leon continues to manipulate him from afar. Is someone trying to prevent him from finding the truth, to drive him out or to encourage him to sell?

Neville Templeton, Style

The rural Mackenzie Basin becomes both the setting and, in a way, a character in this novel by an award-winning author. An exploration of small-town tensions, as the intentions of hunters and cullers, conservationists and developers come to a head, this witty story reveals how, once entwined, our lives can become connected forever.

Rural Living

I was just thrilled to read this, I think it is just the best novel I have read this year so far . . . it's spectacular, it's wonderful . . . She always writes about people's interior lives in a way that I think is very real . . . She writes very elegantly and to the point about landscape . . . it gives you a real sense of the hardness and the beauty of that landscape and what growing up in it perhaps does to you, so I thought it was a really good balance between this plot, this mystery that's going on and his interior life . . . It is quite something and I felt really connected to the characters and I felt you could meet them and completely understand, and she has captured something really special.

Bronwyn Wylie-Gibb, Radio NZ

Laurence Fearnley's new novel Winter Time has two major strengths, and the first of these is the setting. . . . Her evocation of the snow country is convincing and compelling, drawn from personal experience. . . . Not only is this setting authentic, it mirrors the emotional state of the novel's protagonist, a physical and visual complement to the emotional condition experienced by Roland March, the character whose creation is the second strength of the novel. Roland's winter is not so much one of discontent, but rather sorrow, loneliness and unease. . . . he's such a well-drawn and complex character, with a longing for acceptance and understanding, that our sympathy is engaged. It's a challenge for a woman writer to create such a protagonist, one who carries so much of the novel's weight, and Fearnley has succeeded admirably. She's an experienced and accomplished writer with a command of language that allows her to cope with the considerable demands her highly personal writing imposes. Her skills are well displayed here, especially in her descriptions of the environment and personal relationships. . . . the novel is a success, most obviously because it captures people and place – a place of scents and colours, warmth and cold, wind, trees and birds, sounds, rocks and water, the houses of the people who live there . . . Winter Time is meaningful and challenging, with much unresolved. It's a brave story, and well told. There's a sincerity in all of Laurence Fearnley's work that gives it a special weight and character.

Owen Marshall, newsroom

Written by an award-winning Kiwi novelist, this is a character-driven story with a strong narrative, set in the majestic Mackenzie Basin. . . . The author cleverly links the protagonist's mood with the bitterly cold weather, creating an atmospheric plot that will have you guessing to the end.

Belinda O'Keefe, Latitude

Fearnley is one of our finest novelists, an Arts Foundation Laureate and a multi award winner. This is destined to be another winner. . . . Fearnley writes her prose like poetry and you’ll feel immersed in the bitter cold of the landscape and the story. There are a few loose ends but this is a satisfying read, with fully fledged characters and a harsh and unforgiving backdrop. Turn up the fire and enjoy every minute of it.

Linda Thompson, Wairarapa Times Age

Fearnley paints her mid-winter Otago landscape with extraordinary vividness and veracity . . . a strong and compelling yarn from an accomplished writer. Like the precarious promise of that first step into deep snow, Fearnley pulls the reader into her story with a deft and inescapable grip that keeps you peering into the plot, arms out in front to keep your place in the narrative, to the last page.

Sally Blundell, ANZL

Laurence Fearnley transports us to places with her writing, whether it be the rocky coast (Reach 2014), wetlands (The Quiet Spectacular 2016), or, in the case of Winter Time, the Mackenzie Basin, in the centre of the South Island. Her characters are always intriguing, and in Winter Time Roland March is wonderfully drawn. . . . There is a sense of menace to Winter Time, the reader becomes uneasy along with Roland. . . . The reader, and Roland, do find out what is happening eventually, but that isn’t really the heart of the book. At one point I thought it would end without any resolution, and I would have been fine with that, there are enough clues that the reader could choose from several scenarios. However, the resolution does allow Roland a bizarre act born of relief. What made Winter Time so compelling for me was the atmosphere, the landscape, the uncertainty, and Roland’s adriftness. Highly recommended.

Alyson Baker, alysontheblog.com

Dunedin writer Laurence Fearnley's work is beautifully crafted as the reader feels drawn into the depth of the bright cold and isolation. For South Islanders, it is especially meaningful to see their wide landscapes quietly celebrated, while we watch this private story of personal grief and confusion play out.

Otago Daily Times

I am such a fan of Laurence’s writing, I was thrilled to discover Winter Time‘s existence in the world. And the book is so good, so beautifully written and exquisitely paced . . . The novel is character rich, spiky, unexpected; these multi-dimensional figures draw you in so beautifully. They creep up on you, contribute to the engulfing mood, the traces of foreboding and tension, loss and grief, connection and disconnection. The detail is piquant, pitch perfect. The melody of the sentences so supremely judged. It feels like all the narrative roads lead to mood. To the way we inhabit our lives, navigating who we love and who we miss, what we have and what we long for. Place matters. The way memory both infects and nourishes. The way things change and things stay the same. I adore this book, with its sublime settings and deeply engraved feeling. I simply adore this book.

Paula Green, Poetry Shelf

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Winter Time book club notes

Laurence Fearnley shares notes and discussion questions on her new book Winter Time in this book club guide.