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Isobar Precinct

By May 10, 2024May 14th, 2024No Comments

Shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2022 (Best First Novel).

Lestari Aris is a woman on the edge. Her tattoo studio on Karangahape Road is hammered by burglaries; the hangers-on in her life, from a teenage runaway to a married cop, are bonded to her for reasons she can’t fathom. And years after Lestari’s father disappeared, her Indonesian mother is still lost in a self-medicated blur.

When a murder in Symonds Street Cemetery whirls Lestari into the orbit of an unpredictable drug, she uncovers a decades-long covert clinical study targeting rough sleepers and others on the fringes – and its dark connections with her own life and history. Everything is connected: the past is circling. How far will Lestari go to save someone she loves?

Set in a vivid, grimy inner-city Auckland, Isobar Precinct explores perceptions of time and progress, and asks whether the past ever disappears. 

‘An offhand, easily missed mention of MKUltra a covert CIA project that ran from 1954 to 1975, in which unwitting subjects were given experimental drugs to alter their behaviour is a clue to a part of the background of the story, but it gives no hint of the subtle and surprising way that story line unfolds. To borrow a term once used to describe Beethoven’s quartets, there’s a controlled unpredictability to it all that makes Isobar Precinct a compelling joy to read.

Summarising the plot gives no sense of the novel’s many pleasures: the turns of phrase, the sharp characterisations and the uncanny way Kasmara renders some of the more magical moments — including time travel — in a way that renders it plausible and clear’, Tom Moody writes in Aotearoa New Zealand Review of Books.

Read more reviews of Isobar Precinct in The Pantograph Punch, Kete, and Landfall.

Isobar Precinct

by Angelique Kasmara

The Cuba Press

ISBN: 9781988595436 

Published: August 2021

Format: Paperback, 294 pages

Angelique Kasmara

Angelique Kasmara has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Auckland, where she won the Wallace Foundation Prize 2016 for best manuscript. Her debut novel Isobar Precinct (2021, The Cuba Press) was shortlisted for the 2022 Ngaio Marsh Awards (Best First Novel) and the NZ Booklovers Awards, and has been published as an audiobook by Bolinda. Her fiction and creative non-fiction has appeared in the NZ Listener, Newsroom, Ko Aotearoa Tātou | We Are New Zealand, and Planeta Distante Aotearoa: ecos y voces de la larga nube blanca.