How does a city make a writer? Described by Fiona Kidman as a 'ravishing, immersing read', A Strange Beautiful Excitement is a 'wild ride' through the Wellington of Katherine Mansfield's childhood. From the grubby, wind-blasted streets of Thorndon to the hushed green valley of Karori, author Redmer Yska, himself raised in Karori, retraces Mansfield's old ground: the sights, sounds and smells of the rickety colonial capital, as experienced by the budding writer. Along the way his encounters and dogged research – into her Beauchamp ancestry, the social landscape, the festering, deadly surroundings – lead him (and us) to reevaluate long-held conclusions about the writer's shaping years. They also lead to a thrilling discovery. This haunting and beautifully vivid book combines fact and fiction, biography and memoir, as Yska rediscovers Mansfield's Wellington, unearthing her childhood as he goes, shining a new lamp on old territory.
Redmer Yska is a Wellington-born writer and historian. He has published books about postwar teenagers ('bodgies and widgies'), Dutch New Zealanders like himself, and a commissioned history of Wellington City. He was awarded the National Library Research Fellowship to write a history of NZ Truth, published in 2010. Yska was the major recipient of a New Zealand History Research Trust Fund Award in 2014, allowing him to write this book.
'It's not enough to say I immensely enjoyed A Strange Beautiful Excitement ... it's simply splendid.'
– Dame Fiona Kidman
'… the best account I have ever read of Wellington and Karori as they were in Mansfield's day ... Vivid and vigorous, it is a pleasure to read.'
– Kathleen Jones, KM biographer
Hardback, full colour, 198 x 150 mm, 296 pp, ISBN 978-0-947522-54-4, $39.95