I admit that before I picked up this book I had never heard of Charlotte Grimshaw and yet this is the fourth of her novels to be published. Her first book Provocation was based loosely on her experience as a criminal lawyer. This, along with her next Guilt has been published both here in and Great Britain. Last year Grimshaw won the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansifield award for short fiction for her 2005 book, Foreign City.
Grimshaw is something of a rarity in New Zealand – choosing to live in Auckland and able to make a living as a full time author. Her latest book Opportunity is a collection of some 19 short stories able to be read separately but together coming together to form a whole. Grimshaw herself says her book is “a novel with a large cast of characters…each story stands by itself, and at the same time adds itself to the larger one”. They are characters that are inter-linked to each other, for example in the first story Dee works as part time as a nanny and appears another three times, her mother Celia Myers who is now an old lady and a well-known writer, appears in five different stories. Viola, who is Dee’s sister, also appears in three different stories.
Grimshaw seems to have a great sense of humour and detail, even including the same punk music group -Subhuman and an old Black Labrador into two separate stories. One of these involve an inveterate traveller who arrives back from his years of having been involved in the drug scene in Europe to find that he still can’t conform to what he sees as his parent’s strict and conservative value and decides to go on a road trip north.
The story of the close friendship between the music student and his teacher is also presented in a sensitive manner, especially when it has earlier emerged that the student was charged with murdering the teacher.