"The domestic weave feels acutely real, yet the deeper, more troubling issues elevate this novel so it sticks to your skin. Wootton writes with heart, daring and quietness." (Paula Green, The Southland Times, 14 January 2017)
"... compelling and extraordinarily humane ... skilful characterisation and excellent pacing... Her small cast - Harvey, wife Isobel and daughter Fleur - are perfectly pitched." (Sally Blundell, NZ Listener, 7 January 2017)
"... a novel of multiple felicities ... very affecting, very accomplished" (David Hill, Weekend Herald, 19 November 2016)
"... thoughtfully written, thought-provoking examination of loss and absence, grief and love. I was convinced by the characters, captivated by their story, and compelled to read on at every stage." (Helen Spiers, Otago Daily Times, 19 November 2016)
"... it’s a fine achievement in fiction when we suspend our disbelief as the strength of the telling convinces us. But it is an even more impressive occasion, I think, when an author is able to make us let go of our instinctive prejudices and moral certainties in a wider tide of sympathy as characters entangle themselves in wretchedness, so it is not the mistakes that hold us, but what you might call the low-key heroism of doing wrong while trying to do right. New Zealand fiction doesn’t always take us so starkly into this moral web." (Vincent O'Sullivan, Launch of Strip, 25 October 2016)
A comic strip is not so funny when you’re drawing to forget…New novel Strip by Sue Wootton
If your local bookshop hasn't got it, ask them to order it.
When a Comic Strip is not so funny: former poet laureate moved to tears by debut novel.
STRIP, a debut novel by Dunedin poet Sue Wootton, was launched by leading author and poet Vincent O’Sullivan to a packed University Bookshop in Dunedin on 25 October 2016.
Vincent said the novel was intricate, challenging and provoking and took the reader into a ‘moral web’ that New Zealand fiction doesn’t always enter so starkly. He said he admired how a terrible error on the part of the protagonist nonetheless drew ‘a deep sympathy’ from the reader, and at one point the former poet laureate was compelled to stop reading ‘as the pages blurred with how movingly the details came in on one’.
Strip is about Harvey, a doctor who hangs up his stethoscope to draw comic strips, and later becomes at an-home father for their adopted daughter, and life is good. But when his family is threatened, he acts to protect them in ways that are morally questionable and have tragic consequences.
‘We always say, don’t we,’ said Vincent O’Sullivan, ‘that it’s a fine achievement in fiction when we suspend our disbelief as the strength of the telling convinces us. But it is an even more impressive occasion, I think, when an author is able to make us let go of our instinctive prejudices and moral certainties in a wider tide of sympathy as characters entangle themselves in wretchedness, so it is not the mistakes that hold us, but what you might call the low-key heroism of doing wrong while trying to do right. New Zealand fiction doesn’t always take us so starkly into this moral web.’
Strip is a novel that addresses a public issue of medical morality – euthanasia for those whose lives are deeply compromised by ill-health – and looks at the private issue too of how far people will go for the ones they love. It was inspired by Wootton’s previous career in the medical profession, and her interest in writing about the public and private notions of right and wrong.
'In Strip, devastating events are set in motion by a few small initial errors of judgement,’ she says. ‘The story is about motives and mistakes, conscience and culpability, lies, truth and love. At what point does an action cross the line between right and wrong? What about an inaction? And what if in intending to prevent harm to one person you do harm to another? Harvey is responsible for more harm than anyone else knows. There’s his public—and very topical—crime but there is also his secret, private one. Both have ramifications he never dreamed of and did not intend.'
Sue Wootton is an award-winning poet and fiction writer with a background as a physiotherapist and acupuncturist. Her prizes include winning the Aoraki Literary Awards for both poetry and fiction, and second place in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Her combined interests inform her current PhD studies at Otago University and a blog she co-edits called Corpus, both of which explore the nexus between creative work and medicine.
Strip is published by Wellington’s Makaro Press, which Vincent O’Sullivan said had quickly become ‘an invigorating cultural force’. The press worked with students from the Whitireia Polytechnic publishing course to produce the novel.
Cover design: Theo MacDonald
www.makaropress.co.nz Will be enjoyed by readers with an interest in: New Zealand fiction • the nexus of medicine and the arts • the issue of childlessness and adoption • the issue of euthanasia.
Their dreams of parenthood dashed, Harvey and Isobel go for dream jobs instead. Harvey hangs up his stethoscope to become a cartoonist and Isobel takes a promotion at the local museum. Then an abandoned baby comes up for adoption, and Harvey and Isobel discover a family is more work than they bargained for.
By Fleur's eighth birthday it's all come together nicely, but that's before a voice from the past threatens to nuke their hard-won happiness. Harvey doesn't stop to think. He acts, and with tragic consequences.
Strip is an intriguing drama that explores how far good people will go to protect the people they love, and asks: Is it possible to love too much?