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The Telling Time by PJ McKay

Updated: Oct 1


As reviewed on The Cafe, TV3!


The Telling Time is a page-turning read with two women at its core – one woman in the 1950s in Yugoslavia who comes to New Zealand, and one woman in the 1980s who goes from New Zealand to Yugoslavia - a mother and daughter who have suffered trauma of a very similar type.


In 1959, nineteen-year-old Gabrijela is sent from her homeland in disgrace. Her Dally sponsors require a housekeeper for their son, Roko, so Jela makes her way to a strange country. It is a difficult time, made harder when Roko is sullen and uncommunicative with her.


In 1989, Jela’s daughter Luisa is planning an overseas trip, and contacts her Yugoslav relatives behind her mother’s back. But her boyfriend dumps her before the long-planned trip, so she travels with new acquaintance Bex. But an ill-advised decision in Macedonia puts Luisa in great danger.


This is an accomplished coming of age story, that spans two generations, with two women having to face the worst sort of adversity. But it is also a story of new beginnings, the importance of ‘telling’ to overcome trauma, and the importance of love and family in healing wounds.


The Telling Time won the First Pages Prize 2020, judged by award-winning author Sebastian Faulks.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Polako Press

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