The Telling Time by P.J. McKay (Polako Press, $30.80) is a debut novel of impossible love and soul-destroying secrets where two young women fight to overcome adversity and transport the reader from Yugoslavia, to 1950s New Zealand, and back again.
In 1958, Gabrijela yearns to escape the confines of bleak post-war Yugoslavia and her tiny fishing community, but never imagines she will be exiled to New Zealand as a new immigrant sent to housekeep for the mysterious and surly Roko, clutching a secret she dare not reveal.
In 1989, Luisa, Gabrijela's daughter, departs on her own covert quest, determined to unpick the family's past. But not all decisions are equal and amid Yugoslavia's brewing civil unrest, Luisa's journey confronts her with culture shocks and dark encounters of her own.
The Telling Time was the winner of the International First Pages Prize in 2020.