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  • nz
  • international


Sun 27 Oct, 1.30pm
60 mins, no interval


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Meet Nelson-based novelist Christine Leunens, whose novel Caging Skies is the inspiration for a major new Hollywood film.

This gripping novel, translated into 17 languages and just republished in a new edition, is about a boy who embraces the Nazi dream and becomes a member of the Hitler Youth, but soon discovers his parents are hiding a young Jewish woman in their home.

A New Zealand-Belgian novelist, Leunens is also the author of two other novels, Primordial Soup and A Can of Sunshine, and an upcoming Franco-NZ historical novel, South of Memory, set at the time of the Rainbow Warrior bombing.

She talks with Kerry Sunderland about Caging Skies’ fascinating journey from page to screen.

The film inspired by Caging Skies – Taika Waititi’s new film, Jojo Rabbit – won the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.


The real Kiwi story behind Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit (Stuff, Sept 29, 2019)

Christine Leunens’ novel now an acclaimed Taika movie (Standing Room Only, RNZ, Sept 29, 2019)


“A vivid and deeply compelling novel, Caging Skies is an existential battle of moral and ethical extremes. Christine Leunens is an adept and eloquent storyteller.”
Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones

“A bold novel of great fierceness, insight, and emotional savagery. I admire Leuens’s refusal to soft-soap anything, even as, while reading, I had to put the book down and pace around the room. But if you stick with Caging Skies, you’ll get an entire era distilled into two people, a Tolstoyan marvel.”
Historical Novel Society

“The Tattooist of Auschwitz, The Book Thief, The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas – all are brilliant books that give us a glimpse into the Jewish experience during WWII. Caging Skies is no exception – and might be the most brilliant of them all… Disturbing, moving, eminently readable, enthralling throughout – this is a story you won’t be able to put down.”
My Weekly

“Leunens is a strong writer, her prose supple and darkly engaging. Her depiction of wartime Vienna is nearly cinematic and utterly convincing.”

“Leunens utilizes hard hitting prose, sarcasm, and black comedy to bring out a book that will be impossible to forget. A major literary talent has emerged and I for one, am anxiously awaiting her future novels.’
Stacy Alesi, The Booklist Reader

“A non-negotiable must-read.”
Yahoo Lifestyle

“It’s powerful, haunting stuff. Christine Leunens’ writing takes us through the plot fluently with momentary sparks of black humour, and always in the very subjective voice of Johannes. It’s remarkable that a female author born in 1964 manages so successfully to immerse readers in the mind-set of a young male Nazi while ensuring we reflect on him and judge him too.Caging Skies is a huge achievement. The thoughts it has provoked in me will churn around my mind for a long time.”
Yorkshire Magazine

Christine Leunens is the author of three novels, which have been translated into more than 17 languages. Born in Hartford, Connecticut to an Italian mother and a Belgian father, she has dual New Zealand/Belgian citizenship. She holds a Master of Liberal Arts in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University, and a PhD in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington. She now lives in Nelson and is completing an historical Franco-New Zealand novel set around the time of the Rainbow Warrior bombing.

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