Christine Leunens, the novelist, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to an Italian mother and a Belgian father, and has dual New Zealand/Belgian citizenship. At a young age, she moved to France and became a top international model, the face of Givenchy, Paco Rabanne, Nina Ricci, Mercedes Benz and House of Fraser. She has a Master’s Degree in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University. When her first novel, Primordial Soup, published in the UK in 1999, it was described by the Sunday Times as ‘a remarkable debut novel’. An earlier version of Caging Skies has been published in Spanish, Catalan, Italian and French, and the latter edition was shortlisted for the Prix Médicis and the Prix FNAC awards. Taika Waititi’s film adaptation of Caging Skies made the Black List 2012, and is a New Zealand, German and American co-production. Christine and her family now live in New Zealand. See Christine’s website at www.christineleunens.com.
Described as ‘a black comedy about the fleshy nature of life’ (The Sunday Times), Primordial Soup follows the sexual education of a meat-hating (but meat-obsessed) anorexic, and was placed on the Essential Reading List of Contemporary Literature by the Government Association of UK Libraries. The Times found the use of metaphor ‘masterful’ and concluded that this ‘wickedly funny novel hurtles along [and] captures the confusions and horrors of adolescence brilliantly’, while Repubblica ‘fell in love with this novel at first bite’.
The second novel, Caging Skies, again takes place in ‘a vividly sensual world’ (Otago Daily Times) and was judged ‘totally compelling’ by the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly. Set in Austria at the time of its annexation to the German Reich, it is a novel that ‘breaks all the rules. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, the result is a disturbing and gripping novel that has haunted me ever since I finished reading it.’ (New Zealand Books). David Hill found it: ‘An imaginative novel, daring, singular, adventurous. I’m commending it as much as recommending it.’
Jean Soublin wrote in Le Monde: ‘. . . the surprising, surprising power of the novel. A profound malaise, which lasts well after the read, sign of a very rare power, that of a truly good book, which knows how to carry the reader into a story. Christine Leunens . . . always has the immense merit of surprising and captivating. Caging Skies is one of these books that cannot be forgotten.’
A Can of Sunshine was published in 2013 and Shandelle Battersby in the New Zealand Herald, Canvas Magazine wrote, 'A compelling read that will resonate with any mother or daughter-in-law who wouldn’t necessarily be friends, if not for their common ground.' The Herald included it in their Best Books of the Year List 2013. Ruth Todd in her Bookenz programme on Plains FM said, 'We meet three generations of women in the first few pages . . . these women are in-depth characters . . . the dialogue is superb . . . Edith provides much of the humour and poignancy too, growing older . . . The narrative never stalls, it’s always moving forward to a very satisfying, surprising ending. Everybody should pick up A Can of Sunshine by Christine Leunens.'