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  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143774747
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $19.99

The Calling

A novel about finding your calling, the extraordinary nun Mother Mary Joseph Aubert, and the realities of religious bigotry in late-nineteenth century New Zealand.

‘Dreams were dangerous things.’

It was the dream of Molly’s dying mother that she would become a nun. It isn’t, however, the dream of her Methodist father, who wants her to marry.

But what is her true calling and how can she follow it?

As the 19th century draws to an end, Molly searches out the extraordinary nun Mother Mary Joseph Aubert to find out.

‘One of the most consistently accomplished and versatile writers for teenagers in the country’ – The New Zealand Listener

  • Published: 30 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143774747
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Fleur Beale

Fleur Beale is the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults — she has now had more than 40 books published in New Zealand, as well as being published in the United States and England. Beale is the only writer to have twice won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-Loved Book: with Slide the Corner in 2007, and I Am Not Esther in 2009. She won the Esther Glen Award for distinguished contribution to children’s literature for Juno of Taris in the 2009 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards. Fierce September won the YA category in the 2011 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards and the LIANZA Young Adult Award in 2011. In 2012 she won the Margaret Mahy Medal for her outstanding contribution to children’s writing and in 2015 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In 1999, Beale was Dunedin College of Education’s Writer in Residence. A former high-school teacher, Beale lives in Wellington.

One of Beale’s most well-known books is I Am Not Esther, the story of a girl who is sent to live with relatives who are members of a strict religious cult. It’s a gripping psychological thriller that won an Honour Award in the 1999 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards and features in the latest volume of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, produced by UK publisher Quintessence. It was reissued in 2012 and has been in print since first published. Magpies identified it as a novel that ‘will have relevance wherever there are attempts to control the minds and emotions of children’.

The sequel, I Am Rebecca, was published in 2014 to much acclaim — it was named a 2015 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction book; was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Young Adult category, and won the LIANZA Librarian's Choice Award. In a review for the Otago Daily Times, Rene Nol wrote that, ‘Good writing can reveal our prejudices as being the shallow things they are. Really good writing does that and entertains the reader at the same time. Such is the case with New Zealand author Fleur Beale's latest book, I am Rebecca...This is a tension-filled, thrilling read that affirms genuine belief while exposing hypocrisy.’
Being Magdalene followed in 2015, bringing the series to a riveting conclusion. Awarding the novel five out of five stars for Tearaway, Tierney Reardon avowed that ‘Magdalene is my favourite book in the series; the ending seemed to tie things off so perfectly’, and in a featured review for the New Zealand Listener Ann Packer judged that ‘The remarkable success of I Am Not Esther and its sequels lies in Beale's insightful ability to see shades between black and white…While exposing the hypocrisy of those Elders claiming divine guidance, Beale allows other church adults to show compassion, wisdom and discernment in a fine balance.’ Being Magdalene was awarded a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2016.

The bulk of Beale’s writing is set in the contemporary world. Topics range from boys who fix up an old car to bash around a paddock with, a girl who must take over her father’s business until he’s well enough to take back the reins, to a story about a 15-year-old boy who is a top kart racer.

The New Zealand Listener has called Beale ‘one of the most consistently accomplished and versatile writers for teenagers in the country’.

A ‘strong storyteller’ (Trevor Agnew, The Press) who is ‘consistently engaging’ (Frances Grant, Weekend Herald), Beale is a popular participant in the Writers in School programme, testifying that she is ‘in touch with the modern young market’ (Northern Advocate).

Her entry in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature noted that her characters are ‘intensely aware of their difficulties, social troubles and shortcomings’, and in so doing she exhibits ‘her understanding of teenagers, male and female, and ability to motivate even reluctant readers’.

Acclaimed as ‘a riveting futuristic story’, in the National Library’s Services to Schools review, Juno of Tariswas likened to Bernard Beckett’s Genesis and the ‘classic’ The Giver by Lois Lowry. The reviewer concluded: ‘it is a brilliant story that completely enthralled me’.

The sequel, Fierce September, was named one of The New Zealand Listener’s ‘50 Best Children’s Books of 2010’, and North and South praised its narrative for its ‘compelling authenticity’, while the Otago Daily Times wrote: ‘The writing is tight; the characterisation credible, and the narrative exciting.’ The book’s innovative technique of opening each chapter with a blog commentary on events was widely acclaimed, the reviewer in Magpies commenting that the ‘cross-media technique of combining online blogs with traditional text…brings the book vividly into our world’.

Reviewing Heart of Danger, the concluding volume in the Juno trilogy, in New Zealand Books, Angelina Sbroma identified Juno as a ‘protagonist of wish-fulfilment fantasy in the grand tradition’, but for all that is still a ‘rounded character’. The book left Bob Docherty requesting a fourth volume..

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Praise for The Calling

It's a very thought-provoking historical fiction chapter book by the highly regarded author Fleur Beale . . . a very, very interesting story of New Zealand history . . . it can be seen as a story about the people in your life who help shape your decisions . . . as historical fiction it is extremely well researched but the subtitle 'torn between duty and desire' sums it up exactly. It just raises so may points for discussion . . . fantastic for our schools, we gain a rich insight into the life at that time . . . It's a fantastic story. I loved it. [Molly is] a resilient, resourceful girl, she's not feisty but she's a determined achiever . . . I actually learned quite a lot from it. The writing seems effortless . . . It's superb.

Joanna Ludbrook, Nine to Noon, Radio NZ

Historical fiction at its brilliant best, The Calling captured me early and took me on a trip back in time to late 19th Century NZ. Set in a small kiwi town, life in the Conway house, Molly’s fervent desire to follow her mother’s wishes, and her growing uncertainty about that path, was expertly written and real. I experienced life in 1895, with its religious bigotry, and society expectations for women. Swagmen roamed the roads, hungry and looking for work and the divide between rich and poor didn’t correlate with levels of kindness. Each chapter of the book begins with snippets of the times, whether it be a newspaper report, encyclopedia entries, a recipe for scones, or even a guide on waterproofing boots. Fleur Beale is a well loved, accomplished and much awarded YA Kiwi Author. The Calling is another astounding piece of New Zealand YA Fiction.

Adele Broadbent, whatbooknext.com

Multi-award winning, Wellington-based author Fleur Beale has crafted an inspiring tale of a young girl, Molly Conway, as she struggles with her faith in the face of many difficulties. Throughout the story, readers experience inner conflict, abuse and religious troubles, as seen through the life of Molly, while the integration of te reo along with the real-life roots of the story, makes this an absorbing and immersive read. . . . I admit I was hesitant to read this novel. As an avid fantasy reader, a story about religion based on real life people and events was vastly out of my range of preferred genres, but I gave it a go. I found that the short chapters and fast-paced storytelling made for an easy and gripping read. I recommend this novel to step out of your comfort zone and expand your genres when reading.

Link Pickering, Kete.co.nz

There is something to be said for sticking with what you know, and doing it well. Exceptionally well, in Fleur Beale’s case. The acclaimed author of the I am not Esther series has just released a new young adult novel dealing with religious bigotry, questioning faith, and a coming-of-age girl’s place in it. . . She integrates a concept that many older readers can possibly identify with today; the question of what is it that you want, and what is it that others have put on you to want? Sometimes the line is grey and murky. . . . When I received this book in the mail I had high hopes and I was not disappointed. For anyone that liked Beale’s other books, or has a passing interest in the period dramas on Netflix, this is worth a read.

Eleanor Bassett, Hooked on NZ Books, Read NZ

Well-suited for a TV mini-series . . . While the book is a fictionalised account, the storyline nonetheless is a somewhat fascinating look at the not-so-distant past, particularly around the lower North Island. A well-put-together story and one that surprisingly becomes a page-turner.

Farm Trader

There are very few young people and children’s writing awards that Beale hasn’t won in a career that spans more than 30 years and 40 books. While many of her stories are set in the contemporary world – with young people facing the trials and tribulations of modern life – Beale has also looked to the past, and religion, as an inspiration. In The Calling, Beale steps back in time to late 19th century Aotearoa New Zealand to centre on the story of Molly, who struggles to find her life’s path after her dying mother pleads with her to become a nun, while her Methodist father wants her to marry. Torn between parental wishes and societal expectations, Molly seeks out the extraordinary (and real-life) nun Mother Mary Joseph Aubert for help.

Kete, Sunday Star-Times

Fleur Beale is one of my favourite New Zealand authors; she never disappoints . . . The Calling meets my expectations-a thoroughly good read . . . [Molly] is constantly challenged and her self-doubts and questioning give the reader a good understanding of what it must have been like to be a woman in those times-the expectations of others, duty and obedience to one's parents, and the attitudes of society. . . . Beale creates some wonderful characters and you are drawn to them. . . [she] has honoured the character of Mother Aubert, who was a friend and mentor to all. . . This is a story about understanding self and following your own heart, not what others think you should do.

Rosemary Tisdall, Magpies

Beale captures the constraints of the times, especially on a teenage girl in a young New Zealand rural area who is left to run the household after her mother dies. Molly is determined to follow what she considers her calling to become a nun and seeks out Mother Mary to help her make her decision. It's a really good read about a very different time.

Linda Thompson, Napier Courier

Author Fleur Beale's homage to New Zealand's saint-in-the-making is set against the miserable, mud-soaked years of the Long Depression, when out of work lawyers knocked on doors begging for food, fires were a constant threat and everyday life was a hard slog. . . . Beale's historical research, down to the finest detail of life in pioneering rural communities . . . is discreetly supported by head-of-chapter quotes . . . A tantalising introduction to the Frenchwoman who crossed the world in search of her calling, and to her legacy of love. It's a sweet romance, too.

Ann Packer, NZ Listener

The Calling is beautifully written and creatively articulates how hard it was to be a young woman 100 years ago. As we follow our protagonist, Molly Conway, we watch her struggle with hardship after hardship as she journeys her way down the path God has set her on. I particularly enjoyed seeing her come to terms with the fact that she was living out her mother’s dream and not her own and how that affected her life’s path. Molly is a brave young woman and seeing her choose the right over the easy, time and time again, is empowering. . . . The Calling is a brilliant book and a great read. When Fleur Beale came to my school and read us the first chapter, I was really excited to see the way Molly’s story would play out — and I can confidently say that I wasn’t disappointed. I believe that this is a book many teenagers would enjoy . . .

Caitlyn Mills, year 11, St Mary's College, Tui Motu Interislands

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