READ FOR NZ BOOK AWARDS
Gay, Maori/Russian siblings seek love, life and understanding from the contemporary world
❝ Greta and Valdin are brother and sister, both gay, with mixed heritages and living together in Auckland attempting to navigate life and all its triumphs and tribulations. Greta is a student/English tutor with a misguided crush on friend and colleague Holly. Valdin is a television presenter still in love with his ex, Xabi. They are both anxious and curious with a strong sense of self-awareness, examining their own actions and keeping each other and all the members of their family honest.
The book studies the social behaviours of people, not just in romantic and familial settings but also in regards to sexuality, ethnicity and mental health. These behaviours are built into the story so deftly they don’t feel moralistic, but do softly alert the reader, with a cringeworthy humour, about misconceptions and misguided comments that feature far too often in our lives and have a bigger impact than some realise: for example Valdin is asked to lead a karakia because he’s “the Maori one”; most people don’t even try to pronounce their long Russian surname (Vladisavljevic); others presume Greta is bixsexual rather than gay because she is pretty and cares about her looks.
Setting is also given prominence, with many landmarks and recognisable features in Auckland and at Auckland University referenced – even the winking Santa on the Farmers building gets a mention.
I keep walking until I get to one of my favourite cafés, all full of normal morning people not humiliating themselves, then I walk into the liquor store next door, where I stand in the beer fridge until the man from behind the counter comes to check that I haven’t died.
❝ Both Greta and Valdin and all their family members are well built characters. Everyone has an interesting habit or relationship or identity and everyone is memorable, which I often find is not the case in large family sagas. The book is full of people and brimming with personality and activity. I felt like I was a part of the family involved in all the dramas and gossip and joys.
What I loved most about this book was it felt very much like a New Zealand book, one that represented a large cross-section of people who call themselves Kiwis, and which laid out in black and white our values, actions and thoughts (both good and bad) as a nation of people. – Rachel
❝ I loved the chaotic, loving energy of Greta & Valdin and while my age is more aligned with their parents I enjoyed living vicariously through twenty-somethings trying to live their best lives in the 2020s. This book was genuinely funny and I laughed out loud a few times which let’s be fair is pretty rare when watching a hilarious TV series let alone reading a book.
Maybe, just maybe, things were tied up a little too tidily at the end, but in saying that there was still a good zinger or two there keeping me on my toes. I feel like the word ‘rollicking’ is a bit too much of a cliché, but there you go it was a rollicking read and I bloody loved it! – Suzy
Victoria University Press