The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke

The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke
Pub date 3rd September 2018
Original publisher Penguin Random House New Zealand
Publisher (UK) Lightning Books (September 2019); UK and ANZ audio - Aurora
International publishers Eksmo (Russia)




Film rights optioned by Piki Films, the producers of Jojo Rabbit and Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Shortlisted for the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards

Longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award and the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

While exhibited as a curiosity, a Maori boy turns his gaze on Victorian London.

‘The hour is late. The candle is low. Tomorrow I will see whether it is my friends or a ship homewards I meet. But I must finish my story for you first. My future, my descendant, my mokopuna. Listen.’

So begins the tale of James Poneke: orphaned son of a chief; ardent student of English; wide-eyed survivor. All the world’s a stage, especially when you’re a living exhibit. But anything can happen to a young New Zealander on the savage streets of Victorian London. When James meets the man with laughing dark eyes and the woman who dresses as a man, he begins to discover who people really are beneath their many guises. Although London is everything James most desires, this new world is darker and more dazzling than he could have imagined.


Praise for The Imaginary Lives of James Poneke

‘A historical love letter to London, a coming-of-age story, a love story… do yourself a favour, read it’ – Stella Duffy

‘A riveting vision of the world seen from the inside out. The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke is a gutsy, searing and totally absorbing read. I loved it all the way’ – Fiona Kidman

‘Made streets I’ve walked a thousand times seem new and strange’ – Damian Barr


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