Book Review: ‘Forbidden Cities’ by Paula Morris


Three books in and I’m not finished my Morris-a-thon yet. I get a bit like that. At aged 7 it was Garfield. Aged 17 it was Plath. Aged 21, the Beat Generation. Aged 28, The Rolling Stones. And at 32 it was the Lost Generation and Paris in the 20s. I love reading or listening to everything I can by, and about, one author or one band. I love being able to recreate lives and times through a particular artist’s work and to feel the borders of my personal world bend and stretch outwards with new understanding. Paula Morris isn’t quite an ‘obsession’ to the level that F. Scott Fitzgerald is, but her voice has driven me to read three of her works and leaves me with a desire for more. 

I think what makes Morris’ writing so special is her personal involvement in her works and the ambiguous line between fiction and autobiography. She uses her personal experiences and her own history to draw her fictional worlds and, I suspect, characters. The result is a beautiful genuineness, as if she gifts part of herself with each story.

Forbidden Cities is no exception. It is a compilation of short stories that trot us around the globe and into the darkness and light of lives and places that seem real enough to book a flight to. The book’s opening story, Like a Mexican is my favorite. It is the story of a record industry exec (which Morris was before becoming an author) and an affair that almost broke her. This line so well-caught the essence of what true love feels like, that I emailed it to my hubby:

“It feels as though you’ve invented him, as through you’ve invented each other. It feels as though you’ve never been in love before.”

I can’t help but feel that this story, or a version of it, really happened to Morris – ah, the beauty of fiction.

‘Forbidden Cities’ by Paula Morris. Penguin NZ, 2008. Image copyright Caroline Barron 2014


Lonelyville for poor Robert and the perfect depiction of his gaggle of bitchy girls. And the uncomfortable ending;

The description of miscarriage ((77) and Olivia’s disappointing marriage in The Party;

The delicate sense of “I’m not sure what is, but this isn’t the life I wanted” in Testing;

Plain light of day infidelity and realization in The Argyle;

Rangatira for showing me the providence of Morris’ later novel by the same name

Forbidden Cities is Morris’ fifth work of adult fiction. Click on the title to see my review of her first novel, Queen of Beauty, and her most recent novel, Rangatira.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: ‘Forbidden Cities’ by Paula Morris

  1. Pingback: North & South: November 2015: The Heart of the Matter with Paula Morris |

  2. Pingback: Arriving at the Mid-Point (and Other Tales from a Masters in Creative Writing Class) |

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