Hibiscus Coast, novel by New Zealand writer Paula Morris
Penguin New Zealand, 2005
Longlisted, International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2007

After three years in Shanghai, Emma thought Auckland seemed thin and watery, only half-formed. It leaked north and south and west, pinched between its harbours, but it never threatened to overflow. On a map, Shanghai was a nostril in the beak of an eagle, grand and indomitable, hooking out into the East China Sea. Auckland on the map looked like a sea horse, still curled in sleep.

Emma Taupere returns to Auckland from Shanghai, where her training as a painter has made her a copyist of incredible skill. Now, Siaki, her ambitious and manipulative ex-boyfriend, has recruited her as a forger, shutting Emma away in a borrowed apartment on Princes Wharf.

Emma works day and night copying one of the most valuable Goldie paintings in the Auckland Museum until a rash act by her damaged young cousin, Ani, exposes her to danger, and Emma has no choice but to flee up the Hibiscus Coast.

Reviews

“Not only is Morris a seriously good writer – the tone doesn’t jar, the characters are satisfyingly complex, and there is an interesting reflection of the way we are now – she can also deliver entertainment … Like Dickens, she can tell a great story but also “catch” the world we live in, with all its complications and ambiguities.”
– Lydia Wevers, New Zealand Listener

“The brilliantly complex, noir-esque thriller Hibiscus Coast [is] set in an Auckland connected both in terms of the plot and her depiction of the city with the “floating worlds” of contemporary Shanghai – an Auckland with even more complicated intersections of race, class, values, backgrounds and personal relationships than you get at a New Yorker’s garden party.”
– Anna Jackson, New Zealand Listener

Hibiscus Coast continues its predecessor’s strengths of fine characterization and evocative writing; and goes further by adding impressive qualities, such as a dynamic plot and knife-edge storytelling … a weighty and wonderful book.”
– Siobhan Harvey, Christchurch Press