Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner (Hodder)
“People thought it was going to be a lavender scented memoir,” said Lady Anne Glenconner on the Graham Norton couch, before delving into the gobsmacking debauchery of her husband, Lord Colin Glenconner, dragged her through. Maid of Honour to the Queen and former Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret, she’s lived an extraordinary life imbued with glamour, secrets and drama in equal measure. She takes you to the exclusive Island of Mustique that she and her husband owned, where they hid Princess Margaret from the tumult of palace life, and built exclusive residences for the rich. Yet sewn into her colourful life amid her regality and cracking wit there’s heartbreaking tragedy, from the loss of her two grown-up sons to aids and drugs, respectively, to the shocking detail left behind in her late husband’s will. It’s not a new book, but like all good memoirs rammed with anecdotal hilarity, you’ll find yourself conveying her stories to anyone who’ll listen for a jolly good laugh. Watch her in action here.
The Astromancer by Witi Ihimaera (Puffin)
There’s no greater storyteller to teach the children in your life about the tradition of Matariki, as Aotearoa prepares to mark it with a long weekend for the first time, than Witi Ihimaera. Author of The Whale Rider and Māori Boy, among others, Ihimaera’s added The Astromancer: The Rising of Matariki, a gorgeous children’s book, to his repertoire. Te Kōkōrangi, a kaitiaki and skilled astromancer, is on the lookout for new apprentices to teach about the stars. Upon finding the three boys, Tahi, Mākura, and Iwihōia, she finds Ariā, a strong-willed, reluctant orphan who agrees to join if her dog Kuri can come. They set off for Pekerangi Mountain, the Leaping Place into the Heavens, and along the way the apprentices are given their first few important lessons, with Ariā displaying a level of unabashed confidence. Waiting for the descent of Te Waka o Rangi, Ariā is forced to grow up fast in the face of the brutal arrival of Ruatapu the Ravenous, but will she step up? This book is bound to become a staple on all bookshelves. Not least because the illustrations by Isobel Joy Te Aho-White make it a work of art in itself. It’s also available in Te Reo Māori as Te Kokorangi: Te Aranga o Matariki
The Palace Papers by Tina Brown (Penguin Random House)
What The Crown covers in 40 hours, former Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Tina Brown condenses into 20 pages of The Palace Papers, using the remaining 477 to pry deep into the cracks of the Royal family’s private life leaving no stone of gossip unturned. I can’t explain our want for this level of scrutiny into one family. But I guess it’s schadenfreude and watching these diamond-clad deities, who’ve been placed on par with Jesus by birthright and marriage, trip up like the rest of us. Each paragraph reads like breaking-news backed by ‘reliable sources’ who I imagine the royal family aren’t that happy about. From Prince Andrew’s sweat-gate and his friendship with a sex-offender, Harry and Meghan’s exit and “mutual ‘addiction to drama’”, to the death of Princess Margaret, and how Camilla told Charles to ride her like a horse in the bedroom, it seems Brown’s deadset on demystifying a family who’s success thrives off, well, mystery. It’s Brown’s word wizardry that veils over the fact this really is one big tome of gossip unauthorised by its subjects, making it uncomfortably compelling to read.
Matariki: The Star of the Year by Rangi Matamua (Huia Publishers)
It’s impossible without you seeing Matariki to wholly capture the beauty of its pages. On page 50 there’s a grainy shot of Matariki rising from the porch of Te Matahi o te Tau. Turn the page and there’s the Māori lunar calendar prefacing a detailed exploration of the stars in correlation with the lunar phase. Every page is a delight to behold. Dr Rangi Matamua is preserving Māori astrology and recreating the traditional whare Kōkōrangi that was infiltrated by early European settlers and colonisation. Māori astronomy is being “decolonised, and re-told by Māori based on Māori beliefs, Māori culture, Māori ways of thinking and Māori language”. Reading Matariki is akin to having your hand-held star-gazing, opening you up to a worldwide cultural understanding of Matariki and how and when to spot it in the night sky. You’re guided, among other things, through Aotearoa’s Matariki weather, navigation, and celebrations, acknowledging it as a time for rejoicing and coming together - “when Matariki gathers in the sky, it calls for people to gather on earth”. A Member Bill to mark Matariki as a public holiday was tabled by the Māori Party in the House in 2009. Now, 13 years later, we can come together over a long weekend and celebrate Aotearoa’s star of the year.