Off the Press

The Odour of Sanctity and Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley are two works recently published by Victoria University Press (VUP) and are reviewed for Victorious by Briony Pentecost.

The Odour of Sanctity

By Amy Brown

Amy Brown’s The Odour of Sanctity is an epic poem, divided into seven sections. It takes readers on a guided tour of the canonisation process, visiting the would-be saints themselves ( Jeff Magnum, Christina Rossetti, Margery Kempe, Elizabeth of Hungary, the baby Rumwold, Aurelius Augustine), witnesses, the people they have healed, physicians and God.

Epic poetry can make for a challenging read, but Brown is concise and the work is elegantly divided. As well as subtle tonal shifts, each candidate is distinguished by structure (Aurelius in couplets, Rossetti in quatrains and so on), further emphasising individual voices within a cohesive whole. It would serve as an excellent primer for those unaccustomed to reading poetry, as there is a sense of completion and story and the poetry itself often reads more like prose.

The Odour of Sanctity is clever and accessible, and its readers are in for a treat. It travels easily through time from the fourth century AD to today, examining the nature of internal realities, as well as religion. Themes are revisited through different eyes, examined and torn apart in a way that invokes many questions, but ultimately encourages a calm acceptance of the challenges and mysteries of life.


Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley

By Danyl McLauchlan

Billed as ‘a classic Kiwi comic mystery erotic horror adventure novel’, Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley is the debut novel of Dim-Post blogger Danyl McLauchlan. Set in a finely rendered Aro Valley, the story that unravels does indeed measure up to each of these tags.

Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley is a hefty volume and its 400-odd pages detail the protagonist’s strange adventures and encounters with secrets and the characters who keep them. Initially I was slightly irritated by a narrative awkwardness as the novel established itself. However, as the narrative moved forward, I soon forgave the sometimes stumbling tone and self-pitying haplessness of the central character, named Danyl, as the increasing twists and turns of the somewhat wacky plot line drew me in. I found myself enjoying the unknowns of this story set in a familiar landscape, with familiar characters—stereotypes that McLauchlan hasbreathed life into.

Shifting from tragedy to triumph and back, with moments of comedy delivered by straight-faced characters throughout, Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley is a quirky, often melodramatic novel, clearly structured and delivered in an unassuming but convincing voice that allows for a sense of accidental discovery.

Details of forthcoming publications by VUP can be read VUP website.