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About the book
  • Published: 1 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9780857981639
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

The Mannequin Makers




The Mannequin Makers is at turns a gothic tale of a father’s obsession, a castaway story worthy of a Boy’s Own adventure and a thorny remembrance of past tragedies.

The Mannequin Makers is at turns a gothic tale of a father’s obsession, a castaway story worthy of a Boy’s Own adventure and a thorny remembrance of past tragedies.

The skin was as near white as porcelain, but looked as if it would give to the touch. What manner of wood had he used? What tools to exact such detail? What paints, tints or stains to flush her with life?

So wonders the window dresser Colton Kemp when he sees the first mannequin of his new rival, a man the inhabitants of Marumaru simply call The Carpenter. Rocked by the sudden death of his wife and inspired by a travelling Vaudeville company, Kemp decides to raise his children to be living mannequins. What follows is a tale of art and deception, strength and folly, love and transgression, that ranges from small town New Zealand to the graving docks of the River Clyde and an inhospitable rock in the Southern Ocean to Sydney’s northern beaches. Along the way we meet a Prussian strongman, a family of ship’s carvers with a mysterious affliction, a septuagenarian surf lifesaver and a talking figurehead named Vengeance.

  • Pub date: 1 August 2013
  • ISBN: 9780857981639
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 336

About the Author

Craig Cliff

Craig Cliff was born in Palmerston North in 1983. Earning Cliff the title of the Sunday Star -Times’s ‘Hot Writer of 2011’, his first short-story collection, A Man Melting, won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book, the judges commenting: ‘This book is of the moment, and is rightly at home on a global platform. Cliff is a talent to watch and set to take the literary world by storm.’ His short stories have been published in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom; one of them being selected for Essential New Zealand Short Stories, edited by Owen Marshall.

His first novel, The Mannequin Makers, was published in 2013, and has sold editions in Australia, the US, the UK and Romania. The New York Times said of it: ‘A book that makes grand promises and delivers.’

In addition to fiction, Craig has published poetry, essays and reviews, been a newspaper columnist and judged poetry and short story competitions. His work has been translated into German, Spanish and Romanian and he participated in the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program in 2013. He was Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 2017 and currently lives in Wellington with his young family.

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Praise for The Mannequin Makers

“In his debut novel, the New Zealand writer Craig Cliff adds to the canon, but with such ambition, creativity and sheer energy that he shows there’s still something new to say about a national narrative that can seem, at times, to hold no surprises.”

New York Times Review of Books

“ [The Mannequin Makers] is a strikingly vivid tale full of startling yet believable twists anchored by the compassionate portrayal of lives overrun with obsession and the drive for perfection. It is an original and gripping read, a rich book by an accomplished writer.”

Los Angeles Review of Books

“Cliff altogether offers a quirky voice that falls outside of much American commercial fiction. This esotericism, along with determined prose, clever bits of timeless social critique, and an eye for setting, makes The Mannequin Makers a pleasurable read.”

Chicago Review of Books

“At times moving, often entertaining and exuberantly told.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

“New Zealander Cliff makes a stunning American debut with a story about obsession gone horribly wrong. . . . This is a spellbinding and original tale, rife with perilous journeys, fascinating historical detail, and memorable characters.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In Craig Cliff’s world everything breathes . . . He dresses loneliness in its most dramatic garb, lacing it with vice, virtue, and dispassion, and casting it all in the gnawing shadow of grief: for lost loved ones, for rash decisions, for the isolation that comes with victimhood.”

Arkansas International

“ A grim and glorious meditation on the cruelty of fate.”

Kirkus

“ Craig Cliff has brought turn-of-the-century Australia and New Zealand entirely to life in his haunting novel. With shades of Herman Melville and Richard Flanagan, it is a story of dark obsessions and family entanglements that will pull you in like a strong undertow. There are shipwrecks and deserted islands and uncanny illusions. But it’s Cliff’s writing about wood carving and the New Zealand landscape that lends the novel its beautiful lyricism.”

Eowyn Ivey, author of To the Bright Edge of the World


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