fiona farrell


In addition to articles and reviews for a variety of periodicals,
Fiona has written three non-fiction books.

‘The Broken Book’ is a collection of essays and poems.

'The Quake Year' is a collection of interviews
in collaboration with photographer Juliet Nicholas.

'The Villa at the Edge of the Empire' is the factual half of a two-volume work examining the rebuilding of a city through the twinned lenses of non-fiction and fiction.

'The Villa at the Edge of the Empire'

was published in June 2015
by Penguin Random House New Zealand.


The Villa at the Edge of the Empire


The Broken Book


The Broken Book

Auckland University Press 2011

2012 New Zealand Post Non-fiction Award

2012 Nielsen New Zealand Booksellers Choice Award


Fiona Farrell’s meandering travel book shows how an earthquake can change everything in a flash: the book you were writing, the house you were living in, the thoughts that preoccupied you.
The Broken Book consists of four essays about life and walking, bookended by a preamble and an afterword, and interrupted by 21 poems about the Christchurch earthquakes and their aftermath. The poems jolt into the essays like aftershocks, like cracks in the text; they make you pause and reconsider.
The Broken Book is funny, timely, deeply personal but never self-indulgent - it shows Fiona’s talents as a writer and warmth as a human being. (AUP website)

I have been so moved by this book with its beautiful poetry and prose and the insight the author provides into the experiences of the residents of Christchurch over the past 12 months and also of course by way of contrast the great joy to be experienced on walking holidays........
Graham Beattie - Beattie's Book Blog - unofficial homepage of the NZ book community

Listener review - Sally Blundell

Sunday Star Times review - Anne Else

Saturday morning with Paul Diamond - The Broken Book


The Quake Year


The Quake Year

Canterbury University Press 2012



Everyone in Christchurch has their own story of the earthquakes.

There are heroic and brave stories related to the events themselves, and also longer narratives of endurance over months of aftershocks. No one will ever forget this year.

In 'The Quake Year' Fiona Farrell interviews people trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times. Their stories are moving, poignant, revealing and healing.

This unique book takes the reader beyond the physical damage straight into the hearts of survivors, in stories that will touch a chord with every reader.



There are quake books and quake books. Then there is this, quite the best to send to folk overseas. The matching of text and pictures, despair and hope, humanity against nature, makes it a treasure. Fiona Farrell has engaged her talent as a fiction writer to the shaping of stories from interviews with Canterbury people. Through them, the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 are brought to mind, but the terror is subsumed in the emotions of the testimonies of "men and women next door". The choice of photos and the skill in their taking ensures readers will want to pore over them. Just when the reader thinks no more evocative or heartfelt account of an earthquake could have been written, along comes the next, and the next. On second thoughts - don't send this book abroad. It is one to keep and savour.
Mike Crean. Christchurch Press. 16th June, 2012

Fiona's text is enhanced by beautiful photographs by acclaimed Christchurch photographer Juliet Nicholas who has been recording the life and culture of New Zealand for over 20 years. Her work has featured in hundreds of publications. She has also collaborated in the production of several books, including Fine Cheese (1995) and Old Fashioned and David Austin Roses (2004), as well as Islands, an oral documentary exhibition of Stewart Island and its people.

Interviews with
Tusiata Avia, Chris Moore, Karen Duncan, Amy Gregory and James Allen, Lyn Fossey, Sally Blundell, Bev Prout and Quentin Wilson, Heidi and Rick and Erik Cassells Brown, Helen Webby, Siene de Vries, Jaimini Shurety, Jenny Glue, Juliet Neill, Diana Madgin, Pip Watson, Martin Aspinwall, Natalya Pitama, Patsy Turner, John Wilson.


The Villa at the Edge of the Empire

Penguin Random House New Zealand 2015

Order or download now


A provocative and insightful exploration of rebuilding our homes, communities and cities after their devastation.

Where are we?
How did we get here?
Where do we go now?

From nineteenth-century attempts to create Utopias to America's rustbelt, from Darwin's study of worms to China's phantom cities, this work ranges widely through history and around the world. It examines the evolution of cities and of Christchurch in particular, looking at its swampy origins and its present reconstruction following the recent destructive earthquakes. And it takes us to L'Aquila in Italy to observe another shaken city.

Farrell writes as a citizen caught up in a devastated city in an era when political ideology has transformed the citizen to ‘an asset, the raw material on which . . . empire makes its profit'. In a hundred tiny pieces, she comments on contentious issues, such as the fate of a cathedral, the closure of schools, the role of insurers, the plans for civic venues. Through personal observation, conversations with friends, a close reading of everything from the daily newspaper to records of other upheavals in Pompeii and Berlin, this dazzling book explores community, the love of place and, ultimately, regeneration and renewal.