Under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, love, lies and disenchantment lead to a menacing showdown in this suspense-filled novel.

A foreigner is seriously injured not far from Julia's safe Queenstown hideaway.

Why does he have her name in his wallet?

His unexpected arrival takes Julia back forty-five years to London, where as an impulsive young woman she first met Benito Moretti - a meeting that was to change her life, taking her to the glittering Gulf of Naples. There Julia found herself pitted against her belligerent mother-in-law and Benito’s sinister brother in a lethal battle for her husband and children.

Julia remembered her father saying, We’re all as sick as our secrets. Words that still haunt her.


Sample of Review Quotations

... a wrenching, emotional, tension-filled story about family secrets, cultural expectations and hidden corruptions ... How Julia winds up separated for decades from her son and how she ends up alone in New Zealand (a place where she is, as she tells us, "a better version" of herself) far from all those she loves and holds dear, are the mysteries that this compelling novel unravels for us. Maggie Trapp, Weekend Herald.

... the best novel I have read for a long time. I could not put it down. Margaret Reilly, Horowhenua Chronicle.

There is heartbreak, horror, determination and sacrifice in this novel. A fast-paced engaging read. Louise Ward, Napier Courier.

Reminiscent of Thomas Mann's 'Buddenbrooks' the novel captures the indomitable spirit of a mother caught between conflicting allegiances ... Alexandra Balm.

The suspensful plot line had me engrossed, the feeling of unease as the story unfolded was overridden by an incessant need to discover the dark family secret. An absolute 'must read'. Amanda Bean, Goodreads.

This is a heart-rendering story, portraying the main character at her most vunerable, and showing the brutality of love when it turns down the wrong path. [It] tackles love and relationships in its many forms - friendships, marriage, children, relatives ... I loved this book. Bronwyn Hegarty, Goodreads.

... tantalising, disconcerting and highly recommended. Good Reading Magazine Australia.


An interview about The Gulf Between with with Lynn Freeman





M. G Alterio
Lives we Leave Behind
Publisher: Penguin Books
Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN 2012 Edition: 978-0-143-5671-0




Eager to escape their pre-war circumstances, two nursing sisters, Meg Dutton and Addie Harrington, board the hospital ship Maheno bound for Egypt. Assigned to the same cabin, out-going, impetuous Meg and quiet, cautious Addie struggle to find anything in common other than the desire to serve their country.

At No. 1 Stationary Hospital, constantly on alert for the next evacuation order, Meg and Addie work alongside nursing and medical personnel caring for wounded and unwell soldiers stationed in the East and later in France. These shared experiences bring about changes in the two women, allowing them to become friends.

When Meg meets British surgeon, Wallace Madison, she falls for him immediately and amidst the chaos of overloaded hospitals and casualty clearing stations they embark on an intense love affair. Addie suspects Wallace has much to hide and fears the relationship will destroy her friend. Nothing will deter Meg though. Bewildered, Addie stumbles into a situation that could have life-changing repercussions.

The two women’s lives are further complicated in 1918 when large numbers of soldiers who survived the trenches in France are decimated by the Spanish influenza pandemic. During this crisis, Meg and Addie make decisions that reflect their emotional and physical states: decisions they think will heal as well as fulfil them.


Publisher’s Comment

A powerful story of love, friendship, and the legacies of war.


Sample of Review Quotations

... a finely crafted novel that gives a depth of insight into human needs and responses in times of crisis. Willie Campbell, Otago Daily Times.

War nurses’ story rich and compelling ... told with enthusiasm and precision Caroline Hunter, The Star.

Dunedin writer Maxine Alterio convincingly takes readers back in time on board the New Zealand hospital ship Maheno as it leaves Wellington for North Africa in 1915. Shandelle Battersby, Canvas, The New Zealand Herald.

Authenticity confirmed ... a tribute to women who left New Zealand to nurse in World War 1 Mike Houlahan, DScene, Southland Times.

... Alterio recreates the stench of the battlefield and the drama of the wartime medical room thanks to meticulous research. It is the startling story of New Zealand's First World War nurses told in dramatic novel form. Tomorrow’s Schools Today Online Resource.

Lovely novel of NZ nurses in WW1 in Egypt & France. Carole Beu, Auckland Women’s Bookshop Faves and Raves for 2012.

... a good read about the unsung heroines of an important time in New Zealand history. Annie Oliver, Christchurch Weekend Press.

Alterio has done an amazing job of researching the experiences of Kiwi nurses in the First World War ... [it] transport you firstly to the hot, stinking military hospitals in Egypt [then] to the freezing battlegrounds in France. I highly recommend this book. Sarah Stewart, Sarah Stewart's Blog

Lives We Leave Behind brings a valuable perspective of war through the eyes of the nurses and is a book I really enjoyed and recommend. We see how war changes them, and how love and relationships flourish and suffer in such unforgiving surroundings." Vanda Symons, Vanda Symons' Blog

... a really interesting, cleverly researched, thought provoking and beautifully written book. Bronwyn Wylie-Gibbs, Bronwyn Wylie-Gibbs' Blog


An interview about Lives we Leave Behind with Chris Laidlaw

A review of Lives we Leave Behind by Carole Beu



M. G Alterio
Ribbons of Grace
Publisher: Penguin Books (NZ)
Auckland, New Zealand
ISBN 2007 Edition: 978-0-14-300644-2
ISBN 2008 Edition: 978-0-14-300930-6




Ribbons of Grace is set in China, Orkney and New Zealand between 1870 and 1895. It explores the themes of concealment, alienation, love, forgiveness and friendship through three interrelated storylines narrated by Ming Yuet, a female Chinese sojourner masquerading as a male gold-miner; Conran, an Orcadian stonemason; and Ida, an English settler with aspirations to be a nurse. The novel centres on the relationship between Ming Yuet and Conran, which various settlers think is not only interracial but also homosexual, thereby believing the lovers have crossed both sexual and cultural boundaries. Their love affair develops amidst suspicion, fear and hostility as British settlers and Chinese sojourners attempt to live and work in Arrowtown, a small goldmining town in the lower South Island of New Zealand. An act of violence ensues which irrevocably shatters the lives of those directly and indirectly involved. As the main characters reflect on their roles prior to this event and throughout its shattering aftermath, they pass on their stories to Fang Yin, the daughter of Ming Yuet and Conran. Their stories move between the past and present, homeland and adopted country and from the living to the deceased, revealing differences and similarities about approaches to life and death. Ribbons of Grace is also a novel about the healing potential of friendship and the redemptive power of storytelling.


Publisher’s Comment

Arrowtown, a goldfield settlement with an explosive mix of inhabitants is the scene of an unlikely love story. Maxine Alterio’s beautiful novel about love, forgiveness, alienation and friendship, moves between past and present, homeland and adopted country, and from the living to the deceased.


Sample of Review Quotations

Dunedin novelist Maxine Alterio has created a voice that is utterly distinctive and believable. Margie Thomson, NEXT Magazine, December Issue, 2007.

The story is perfectly written, holding my attention throughout … love, alienation, bigotry and enduring friendship all have their place in this beautifully crafted novel. Staff reviewer, Hawkes Bay Today, 8 November 2007.

… written with a compassion and tenderness that remains long after one has finished reading … brings alive a part of our New Zealand history that is unique and precious. Kathleen Mayson, Wanganui Chronicle, 8 March, 2008.

A wonderful read. Tara Hollings, Ashburton Guardian, 27 December 2007.

A tender yet tragic love story. Charmian Smith, Otago Daily Times, 27 October, 2007.

Love stories carry their own charm and this one is no exception. Jenny Sew Hoy Agnew, Weekend Press, 15 December 2007.

Alterio simply tells a good story well and deserves praise. Jo McCarroll, Herald on Sunday, 30 December 2007.

This golden tale sparkles. Something enthralling happened in every chapter. Gretchen White, Northern Advocate, 23 February, 2008.

An altogether lovely story. Mary Gee, Wairarapa Times-Age, 1 December, 2007.

Reflecting absolutely its title Ribbons of Grace imitates a series of pictures that constantly change and reshape and restructure as the story unfolds. Every image, every sensation, every emotion in effect becomes its own 'ribbon of grace’. Janice Devereux, Otago Gaily Times, October Issue 2007.

With a strong plot and superbly drawn characters this is a great read, one I found difficult to put down. … Her blending factual historical information into her fiction is impressive and gives the story great credibility. Graham Beattie.