R29: The Villa at the Edge of the Empire

The Villa at the Edge of the Empire by Fiona Farrell


I am ashamed to say that I have never heard of Fiona Farrell, an NZ author.  I must admit when I started reading it was hard going. However it certainly improved when she bought in her personal experience and I rapidly came to love it.

The premise of the book is that it is about the Christchurch earthquake 2010.  But that is a very simplistic summary because of the amazing amount of information that this book contains.  I really liked the comparison of Christchurch with L’Aquila in Italy that suffered an earthquake and how its citizen’s had a strong voice in their cities restoration process. There was also reference to philosophers and authors throughout history.

I found that the neologism, solastalgia (pg 341) created by Glenn Albrecht perfectly summed up how I felt about Christchurch and the scars that it left on a city that is my second favourite in NZ.  Solastalgia is what is experienced when a landscape is destroyed or drastically altered for what ever reason, be it manmade or natural.  There is no doubt that the loss of life in the Christchurch earthquake was horrific but recognising the loss of the CBD and a number of historical buildings does not detract from that.  It is impossible not to compare what was to what might be, as the city is still not “restored”, “resurrected” or “recycled” or however you might want to define it.  It is impossible not to mourn the loss of the Christchurch I knew.

I am definitely keen to read more of Farrell’s work.  This book is one of two, with volume one is non fiction  and volume two is fiction.  I would like to read the second book.  This was a library book so I will be in reap it in order to keep it and keep an eye out for more of her work.  Farrell is my kind of writer because of her variety with publications from novels to poetry to short stories etc etc.   



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