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On a human scale, Felicity Barnes

Holding on to Home: New Zealand Stories and Objects of the First World War
Kate Hunter and Kirstie Ross
Te Papa Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9780987668851

One hundred years on, WWI continues to loom large in New Zealand life. With the advent of the centenary, New Zealand’s “Great War” has taken on a literally monumental scale, with new and revitalised memorial structures, including the dedication of a national public war memorial space. Anzac Day saw record attendances across the country: 10,000 turned out in Whangarei, whilst Rotorua’s crowds prompted the mayor to consider holding two services in future years. In Wellington, Te Papa’s exhibition [in conjunction with Weta Workshop and Richard Taylor], “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War”, is actually larger than life, using oversized models of service people in an attempt to represent the magnitude of New Zealand’s commitment.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and War

Captions and context, David Littlewood

The Anzacs: An Inside View of New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Penguin, $45.00,
ISBN 9780143572336

Brothers in Arms: Gordon and Robin Harper in the Great War
Jock Phillips with Philip Harper and Susan Harper
NZHistoryJock, $40.00,
ISBN 9780473308773

One of the more encouraging historiographical developments of recent times has been a greater willingness to prioritise alternative sources. Instead of producing blocks of text with a few pictures thrown in for embellishment, scholars are increasingly using images as a central part of their efforts to communicate the “experiences” of the past. Both The Anzacs and Brothers in Arms demonstrate the potential of this approach for studies of New Zealand soldiers during the Great War. However, one of them manages to structure and balance its various elements more effectively than the other.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Cultural mobilisation, Philippa Mein Smith

Calls to Arms: New Zealand Society and Commitment to the Great War
Steven Loveridge
Victoria University Press, $40.00.
ISBN 9780864739674.

Impressed by the Blackadder account of WWI when he was a child, Steven Loveridge grew up to write a PhD thesis followed by this book, whose aim is to explore not WWI as it was fought, but the relationship between the local war effort and New Zealand society. Loveridge argues that there was a broad cultural mobilisation in New Zealand in support of the war effort. This mobilisation was not imposed by elites but swelled from the ground up, buoyed by a suite of generally accepted cultural values, beliefs and sentiments. To make his case, Calls to Arms is organised into six chapters, supported by illustrations that survey selected areas where New Zealand society and culture intersected with mobilisation for the Great War.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Hitting the mark, Matthew Wright

Desert War: The Battle of Sidi Rezegh
Peter Cox
Exisle, $35.00,
ISBN 9781921966705

Mention Sidi Rezegh to most New Zealanders today and there is a good chance they will look at you strangely. A few, probably, will nod and perhaps name a relative who was lost there. This is predictable: in many ways, the New Zealand battle for that bleak North African ridge – part of the Crusader campaign of November-December 1941 – stands in the shadow of better known 20th-century  battles such as Gallipoli, Passchendaele, Crete, El Alamein and Cassino. This status as poor cousin has been rectified in Peter Cox’s Desert War: The Battle of Sidi Rezegh. The book emerged from his earlier work on his father’s war experience at Sidi Rezegh, and covers the wider New Zealand experience in the Crusader operations of November-December 1941.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

Explaining WWI, Steven Loveridge

The Bantam and the Soldier
Jennifer Beck (Robyn Belton illus)
Scholastic, $19.50,
ISBN 9781775432074

The Anzac Puppy
Peter Millett (Trish Bowles illus)
Scholastic, $19.50,
ISBN 9781775430971

Best Mates: Three Lads Who Went to War Together
Philippa Werry (Bob Kerr illus)
New Holland, $20.00,
ISBN 9781869664114

Jim’s Letters
Glyn Harper (Jenny Cooper illus)
Picture Puffin, $25.00,
ISBN 9780143505907

Anzac Day: The New Zealand Story
Philippa Werry (Bob Kerr illus)
New Holland, $25.00,
ISBN 9781869663803

The contemporary challenge of making sense of WWI is made considerably trickier in regard to young readers with the, (understandable) limits on how the realities of war might be conveyed to the 5-12 age group. Rising to this challenge, and joining the surge of publications accompanying the war’s centenary, the five works reviewed here present aspects of New Zealand’s war experience to young readers. Striking illustrations, some sketched from familiar photographs, aid in this task, conveying scene and tone. Indeed, the attention to expressions and pose (which range from scenes of mirth to downward gazes and thousand-yard stares) are well used to convey mood. They are also imbued with an impressive attention to detail; though I’ll have to ask Bob Kerr how available The Māoriland Worker, which the Best Mates are shown reading, was at Gallipoli.

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review and War

Yesterday today, Glyn Harper

How We Remember: New Zealanders and the First World War
Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts (eds)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739353

With the centenary of WWI now upon us, a flood of books on New Zealand’s role in that conflict can be expected. The first of these appeared in late 2013, and this trend will continue for the next few years. Amongst the books on offer in 2014 is How We Remember: New Zealanders and the First World War edited by Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts. Few of the publications that will appear over the coming years will match How We Remember for its diversity or its insights.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Sociology and War

War means stories, David Hill

Ambiguity and Innocence: The New Zealand Division and the Occupation of Trieste, May 1945  Tony Simpson Silver Owl Press, $35.00, ISBN 9780986451980 The Battles of Monte Cassino: The Campaign and its Consequences Glyn Harper and John Tonkin-Covell Allen and Unwin,

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The invisible hand, Margot Schwass

The Occupiers: New Zealand Veterans Remember Post-war Japan  Alison Parr Penguin Books, $45.00, ISBN 9780143567240 In Love and War: Kiwi Soldiers’ Romantic Encounters in Wartime Italy  Susan Jacobs Penguin Books, $40.00, ISBN 9780143567554 I detoured into these two books while

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Gentleman’s agreement, Tony Simpson

Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Terror Nicky Hager  Craig Potton Publishing, $45.00, ISBN 9781877517693 About a year ago, shortly after this book was published, I heard Nicky Hager in an interview deploring the

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When worlds collide, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

Guns and Utu: A Short History of the Musket Wars Matthew Wright Penguin Books, $42.00, ISBN 9780143565659 From the time the first accounts of New Zealand’s native inhabitants began to reach Europe, Maori pugnacity and military prowess have featured high

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Posted in History, Maori, Non-fiction, Review and War
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