Author(s): Fiona Farrell
A fascinating novel about a house with a fanciful little turret, built by a river.
Unfolding within its rooms are lives of event and emotional upheaval. A lot happens. And the tumultuous events of the twentieth century also leave their mark, from war to economic collapse, the deaths of presidents and princesses to new waves of music, art, architecture and political ideas.
Meanwhile, a few metres away in the river, another creature follows a different, slower rhythm.
And beneath them all, the planet moves to its own immense geological time.
With insight, wide-ranging knowledge and humour, this novel explores the same territory as its non-fiction twin, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire. Writing in a city devastated by major earthquakes, Fiona Farrell rebuilds a brilliant, compelling and imaginative structure from bits and pieces salvaged from one hundred years of history.
A lot has happened. This is how it might have felt.
'It's a work of incredible research and incredible scope and incredible feeling . . . it's really wonderful. It think we will look back at these two books (Decline and Fall on Savage Street and The Villa at the Edge of Empire) and think of them as being very important in our local literary history as marking time and place and moment and feeling; it's a wonderful piece of art.' - Louise O'Brien, Radio NZ
'It's so vast, it shouldn't work; but it does. Primarily this is because, rather than anchoring her text to dry, historical minutiae, Farrell chooses to ground it to people, particularly family. So, as well as the impressive detail made especially graceful thanks to the author's poetic skill, the narrative follows one house settled upon the titular street and its inhabitants, particularly one family, extended and diverse. As such, chapter by chapter are, like a relay team, an exercise in passing the chronological story along. . . . Wide-ranging yet intimate, poetic yet simple, of the singular home yet speaking to the complexities of city and nation, Decline and Fall on Savage Street is a remarkable read.' - Siobhan Harvey, Waikato Times
Fiona Farrell is one of New Zealand's leading writers, publishing work in a variety of genres. Her first novel, The Skinny Louie Book, won the 1993 New Zealand Book Award for fiction. Other novels, poetry and non-fiction books have been shortlisted for the Montana and New Zealand Post Book Awards with four novels also nominated for the International Dublin IMPAC Award.
Farrell's short fiction has appeared in the company of Alice Munro and Hanif Kureishi in two volumes of Heinemann's Best Short Stories (ed. Gordon and Hughes), while her poems feature in major anthologies including The Oxford Book of New Zealand Poetry and Bloodaxe's best-selling Being Alive. Her play Chook Chook is one of Playmarket New Zealand's most frequently requested scripts.
Farrell lives with her partner on Banks Peninsula and since 2011 she has published three non-fiction titles relating to the Christchurch earthquakes - The Broken Book, The Quake Year and in 2015, The Villa At the Edge of the Empire, the factual half of a two-volume work examining the rebuilding of a city through the twinned lenses of non-fiction and fiction.
Fiona Farrell is a frequent guest at festivals in New Zealand, and has also appeared at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Vancouver International Writers' Festival. Fiona received an Arts Council Scholarship in Letters in 1991, and has held residencies in France (1995 Katherine Mansfield Fellowship to Menton) and Ireland (2006 Rathcoola Residency). Fiona was the 2011 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. In 2007 Fiona Farrell received the New Zealand Prime Minister's Award for Fiction.