Everything is gold with this book: the cover, the plot, and the post the Author gave me.
Attraction by Ruby Porter released yesterday in the Literary fiction genre.
The present reckons with the past in Attraction, Ruby Porter’s atmospheric debut novel. Three women are on a road trip, navigating the motorways of the North Island, their relationships with one another and New Zealand’s colonial history. Our narrator doesn’t know where she stands with Ilana, her not-quite girlfriend. She has a complex history with her best friend, Ashi. She’s haunted by the memory of her emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend. And her period’s now weeks late.
Attraction is a meditative novel of connection, inheritance and the stories we tell ourselves. In lyrical fragments, Porter explores what it means to be and to belong, to create and to destroy.
Goodreads book link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43447542-attraction
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Ilana is the kind of person who’s waiting for her parents to die, just so she can get the tattoo. She has a lot already: snakes and jaguar heads and stylised women, even a stick-and-poke rose. Once, she would’ve had a lot of piercings—now, she has the indents of holes, slowly growing over. She likes to give off the impression of a dark childhood, one she can’t talk about, but I think it was a hackneyed kind of dark. Cheating dad, probably, arguments where expensive vases were thrown. Water soaking into the Persian rug. She had one serious girlfriend at high school, the artist of the rose, who must have broken her heart—because she never mentions her, except when she’s drunk, and then only as that BPD bitch.
Ruby Porter is a prose-writer, poet and artist. She tutors creative writing at the University of Auckland, and in high schools. Ruby was the winner of the Wallace Foundation Short Fiction Award in 2017, and the inaugural winner of the Michael Gifkins Prize in 2018, with her debut novel Attraction. Attraction was written during her Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Auckland under supervisor Paula Morris, and published in May by Melbourne-based Text Publishing. It is distributed throughout Australia and New Zealand.
The first glimmer of Attraction
by Ruby Porter
The first glimmer of Attraction, the initial image that came to me, was two women at a bach. Baches are what we call beach houses in New Zealand, but they’re supposed to be run-down, or make-shift, with cheap lino and sand in every corner, built, most likely, by your grandfather.
I knew I had to set my story at a beach away from Auckland for this to be a road trip. It had to be a beach I’d stayed at before, a beach I knew well enough to write. Whāngārā was one such beach – on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, almost as far east as you can get. The first in the world to see the sun.
Wood and wire fences encase the sections and dot Pukehapopo Hill. Waiomoko River coils beside us like a snake. Cement tanks stud each lawn. They look dip-dyed, their lower halves coloured with mould. Boats beached, some usable, some not. Metal-barred gates, low and wide, cut into the grass in fading semicircles.
You’d never know this earth is unforgiving. Everywhere, plants have been willed to life. Harakeke shares a ditch with cannas. There are big lily pads of leaves, waxy as Mackintosh’s lollies or fresh crayons. Dill flowers strain for the sky on thin necks. The wispy green of wild fennel, liquorice in the air, if you lean out far enough.
Whāngārā is remote and untouched; beautiful.It feels special. And that’s because it is: Whāngārā is a sacred beach for Ngāti Porou, one of the iwi (Māori tribes) who come from the east coast. Their ancestor, Paikea, rode a whale from Hawaiki all the way here.
He didn’t settle until he found a new Whāngārā, a place just a bit closer to the sun than the rest of the world. As close to the sun as it’s possible to be on this planet.
He didn’t settle until he found this beach.
Ngāti Konohi, one of the hapū (communities) that descend from Paikea, still calls Whāngārā home. As my narrator says in Attraction: Whāngārā is a place where those who are hapū live, and those who are Pākehā holiday.
I wasn’t sure whether it was right for me, a Pākehā (white New Zealander), to set a novel at Whāngārā. Other people had their own issues with it. One woman in my Masters of Creative Writing claimed that I couldn’t set a novel at Whāngārā, because that had already been done by Witi Ihimaera in Whale Rider. (Her book was set in Paris.)
But then, I realised, that I’d never considered if it was right for me to set a story in Auckland, where I live on stolen land. I’d never considered if it was right for me to set a story in Levin, or Wellington, or Taupō, or any of the other New Zealand towns or cities I’ve written about. It’s all Māori land. Some places just make it easier to forget.
That’s why I decided it was important I set part of my book at Whāngārā. By now, the story had expanded – there was a third woman on the road trip, and later destinations to come. But I hoped that Whāngārā would color them all. It’s a place which remembers its past, and so it forces my narrator to contend with that past, and with New Zealand’s colonial history. It forces her to peel back the layers of the landscape wherever they go.
In Attraction, Whāngārā acts as a flag, a shadow, a ghost, seeping across the pages, haunting the rest of the book; reminding us: It’s all Māori land.