Blog Archives

Pretence and defence, Melinda Johnston

Bromhead: Scratching a Living Peter Bromhead Penguin Books, $38.00, ISBN 9780143574200 In the Cartoon Archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library there is a marvellous ink caricature captioned “The loveable fun-loving Monsieur Bromhead”. Drawn in 2001 by caricaturist Dinah Priestley (a

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Promising softly-spoken wonder, Thom Conroy

The Quiet Spectacular Laurence Fearnley Penguin, $38.00, ISBN 9780143574156 Laurence Fearnley occupies a position somewhere between national treasure and experimental writer. Her depictions of landscapes and her stylistic tendency toward restraint inspire praise, with reviews admiring Fearnley for how markedly

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

With the Second Division, Tony Simpson

A Bloody Road Home: World War Two and New Zealand’s Heroic Second Division Christopher Pugsley Penguin, $70.00 ISBN 9780143571896 It might seem strange that we have had to wait seven decades from the conclusion of WWII for a comprehensive history

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and War

Telling our stories to ourselves, Chris Else

Jerome Kaino: My Story Jerome Kaino Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143573562 Wildboy Brando Yelavich Penguin, $35.00, ISBN 9780143573159 The Good Doctor Lance O’Sullivan Penguin, $38.00, ISBN 9780143572510 How Bizarre Simon Grigg Awa Press, $38.00, ISBN 9781927249222 Lydia Bradey: Going Up is

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Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Mingling the sacred and the profane, Martin Edmond

The Penguin Book of New Zealand War Writing
Harry Ricketts and Gavin McLean (eds)
Penguin Books, $65.00, ISBN 9780143573098

Oddly enough – or perhaps not – when this book arrived at my door I remembered one of the more arcane customs recorded in Te Rangi Hiroa’s The Coming of the Māori: “Warriors before setting out on a military campaign,” he writes, “each in turn bit (ngau) the cross beam (paepae) of the latrine.” These were cliff-side toilets in hill forts and the cross beam was what you held onto while you shat into the void below. There was a strong tapu upon it, to prevent the theft of faecal matter for the purposes of sorcery; and the ceremony of the biting of the bar was attended by a tohunga chanting karakia considered protective of Te Hokowhitu a Tu as they went off to make war.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and War

Life invisible, Louise Wareham Leonard

The Pale North
Hamish Clayton
Penguin, $30.00
ISBN 9780143569268

The Pale North, written by 1977 Hawke’s Bay-born Hamish Clayton, is an experiment, a metafiction, a deconstruction, a love letter and an investigation heir to certain writers – the late German writer W G Sebald being the most obvious one as well as, perhaps, the likes of Paul Auster. Its strengths are in its sure prose, its rich depiction of the atmosphere and landscape of Wellington, its experimentation and range of ideas. Clayton, in this, his second novel, plays with form and theme in a way that puts him at the forefront of certain metafictional and innovative contemporary writers.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

The bloody World Cup, John Saker 

Inside The Cup: Secrets Behind Our All Black Campaigns
Phil Gifford
Penguin Books, $40.00
ISBN 9780143573463

The next, as yet unwritten, chapter of this book has just been played out with the All Blacks’ ruthless, successful march through this year’s Rugby World Cup.

The bloody World Cup. That we weren’t able to win the thing more often over a 20-year period became a source of national angst. With Inside The Cup, Phil Gifford takes us through each painful derailment (and, of course, the two successful campaigns in 1987 and 2011). Before we get into that, here’s my own theory.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and Sport

Theory vs practice, Colin Knox

The Intangibles of Managing A J (Tone) Borren Dunmore Press, $29.95 ISBN 0864692390 The New Zealand Small Business Guide Richard Higham and Sara Williams Penguin, $29.95 (revised edition) ISBN 0140132201 Marketing In New Zealand Alyse Boaz Longman Paul, $29.95 ISBN

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Posted in Non-fiction and Review

Lucky to survive, Nicholas Butler

Greece Crete Stalag Dachau: A New Zealand Soldier’s Encounters with Hitler’s Army
Jack Elworthy
Awa Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781927249123

The Lost Pilot: A Memoir
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143568766

There is a void at the heart of both these WWII memoirs. In Greece Crete Stalag Dachau, it is the time Jack Elworthy spent in Stalag VIIIB, four of his five years at war but given just eight pages in the book, a time he’s tried to forget. In Holman’s book, it is the space left by his father, lost first to the Navy, then to the war, and later to drink, gambling, prison and, finally, cancer.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

New waters, Emma Martin

Reach
Laurence Fearnley
Penguin, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143571728

Novels about art sometimes also seem to be novels about novels. Laurence Fearnley’s latest work, Reach, not only explores the relationship between life and creative expression but also, in a sense, enacts it. It picks out recognisable elements of contemporary New Zealand life, shakes them around a little, turns them inside out, and searches for the meanings within.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review
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