The old people in the district would often say that Roy was not quite the same after he come back. There was a brother. A twin brother, Tony. Tony Mitchell, different boy but a good rugby player. Bit of a mental case, they said, but Roy would have none of it. He always stayed close to Tony when they were growing up. They both went off to fight, must have been 1940. Only the one come back, though.
Crete, they thought. We lost Tony over there.
From Stephen Daisley, winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for Traitor and the NZ Ockham Prize for Coming Rain, a new novel about brothers at war. Beautifully written, brutal, tender and visceral, A Better Place is about love in its many forms.
INTERVIEWS and REVIEWS
Age: What to read: Beguiling stories and a memoir of cultural complexity
Australian Book Review ($)
RNZ: Nine to Noon
‘[Daisley] writes with a maturity and insight wrought of experience.’
‘Stephen Daisley writes with the potent economy of a short-story writer, and he triumphs with this visceral account that will linger in your mind long after the last page.’
‘Daisley’s prose possesses a shimmering, allusive beauty.’
‘[Daisley] has the sure touch of a highly gifted storyteller.’
‘Daisley writes fiction with the economy and clarity of a poet and with deep empathy for the impact of violence. A Better Place contrasts brisk and often confronting accounts of military action and experience during wartime with elegy for a personal aftermath ghosted by trauma and loss.’
‘The battle details, vivid and respectful, are impossibly moving and justified because without knowing what men went through, there can be no understanding. The ending has a surprise sweetness but the horror of the battlefield stays with you.’
‘This isn’t a simple war story: it’s a novel of fraternal and romantic love. The writing—particularly the characterisation and description of Taranaki—is magnificent. The narrative and its characters will linger long after the final page.’
‘Tenderness and brutality collide repeatedly…A Better Place allows readers to ponder how Roy, Tony, and others…handle, or do not handle, everything they see, do, and experience during battle. It considers the delicate love and bond of the two brothers, who are very different people. Perhaps most of all, it dwells on the interplay between New Zealanders on the global stage and the farming district and family life the brothers hail from.’
‘Incredibly powerful…A great read, very edgy, very visceral…Absolutely brilliant.’
‘Daisley’s phrasing is often spare, staccato, clunky and tuned to give you goosebumps…The power of this very good book is synthesising and restoring a fading knowledge we once carried, almost innately, at only a generation’s remove.’