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Mary McCallum's fine debut novel The Blue is about a woman living in an isolated community at the ends of the earth trying to make the best of a life that has at its core a secret grief. It is a time when men nursed their own griefs from the Great War and the Depression, and didn't know that soon the world would make demands on them and their sons again. It is 1938. The place is Arapawa Island, Tory Channel, where for three months of the year, these men leave behind their farms and battle the elements to run down and kill migrating whales with small fast boats and explosive harpoons. This is not the time or place to dwell on the past, either for these men or for Lilian. However, the return of Lilian's troubled son sets in train events which force what happened 12 years before to come out into the light. The Blue powerfully evokes life in the isolated whaling community and there is a feel of high authenticity in the detail of whale chases, harpooning, flensing and processing. There are also dramatic storytelling surprises, which are deftly handled by this fine new writer and indicate a major new literary talent.
Mary McCallum was one of the top students in the 2005 Victoria University creative writing class. She is an experienced journalist and broadcaster, and a frequent participant in the Wellington literary scene (for example, she is a regular contributor to www.leafsalon.co.nz ).