The Reading

Carnival Sky by Owen Marshall

10:45am Monday 24 November to Friday 5 December 2014

Separated from his wife Lucy, immersed in his journalistic career and lost in his own grief for his baby daughter Charlotte, Sheff has become distant from his family. Yet, with encouragement from his sister Georgie, he joins her to return to Alexandra to support his parents. Although he is initially reluctant to assume the role of a dutiful son, Sheff finds this quiet time spent with his dying father, Warwick, brings an unexpected closeness and an acceptance of where he is in his own life.

Abridged to 10 parts by Carol Dee

Told by Adam Gardiner

Published by Random House ISBN: 9781775535829

Produced by Prue Langbein and engineered by Ian Gordon and Phil Benge

About Carnival Sky by Owen Marshall

My wife and I were fortunate to spend 2013 living in Alexandra, Central Otago. I held the Henderson Arts Trust Fellowship which meant we could live in Henderson House, a lovely stone home designed by the famous architect Ernst Plischke in the 1950s. It stands on Bridge Hill and has a magnificent view over the Clutha, the town, and to the Dunstan Range beyond. We experienced the full four seasons, and in Central they are well distinguished, from the pulsating dry heat of high summer to frosts of minus 10 degrees or more in winter.

Central Otago has a haunting and austere landscape, well captured in the art of Grahame Sydney and the poetry of Brian Turner. Hills and valleys, tors and lakes, tussock and thyme, falcons, quail and paradise duck. It has as well a fascinating history, the scars and relics of which are still visible. The privations experienced by the early gold miners were extreme, and the arduous trail they tramped from Dunedin is still clear on the bare hills. For me the most evocative places are not the tourist meccas of Queenstown and Wanaka, but the quiet, sometimes desolate country of the Manuherikia and Maniototo. Poolburn Dam, Moa Creek, Cambrian, St Bathans, and the lovely little gold-mining settlement of Ophir are all favourites of mine.

Moonrise on Maniototo by Grahame Sydney
Moonrise on Maniototo by Grahame Sydney

My writing project during this time was a novel, and I set it in the landscape in which we were living. The physical environment affects the people within it, and people in turn affect their surroundings. That mutual influence is one of the themes that I wished to explore in the story I called, Carnival Sky. An even more significant theme is grief, and the novel has much in it concerning loss, and coming to terms with loss. Although at times a sad story, I hoped it wouldn't be a dreary one, and as in life generally, the characters experience the full range of emotions, from tears to laughter, from intransigence to reconciliation, and at the end acceptance – even optimism.

Fiction arises in the imagination, but the imagination builds from the senses, and I hope the novel carries something from the places and people I knew during its writing.

 For me this painting [Moonrise on Maniototo by Grahame Sydney] captures so well the austere and haunting beauty of those parts of Central Otago where people are less significant and the landscape more so.

Not all audio is available due to copyright restrictions.

  • Carnival Sky - Part 1 ( 14′ 13″ )

    10:45 Sheff feels it's time for a change and resigns from his job as a journalist.