Blog Archives

The unnerving detritus of what was, Jane Westaway

The Shops
Steve Braunias and Peter Black (photographer)
Luncheon Sausage Books, $40.00,
ISBN 9780908689941

Once upon a time, I met people who owned a shop. I was young and impressionable and, on my first visit, was dazzled by a window display of ladies’ and gents’ watches, silverware and jewellery. The door pinged when you pushed it. Once inside, glass shelves and counters gleamed with promise, and the watchmaker’s wife stood behind the counter. It was a small place in a small town, but I was thrilled, not so much by what these people were offering for sale, as by the concept of shop-keeping itself.

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction and Review

Chalk and cheese William Brandt

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie: Murder, Politics and Revenge in Nineteenth-century New Zealand
David Hastings
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869408374

The Scene of the Crime: Twelve Extraordinary True Stories of Crime and Punishment
Steve Braunias
HarperCollins, $37.00,
ISBN 9781775540830

Tourism has certainly come a long way. When in 1878 Mary Dobie made the trip from England to New Zealand, travelling in the company of sister Bertha (has that name ever been fashionable?) and mother Ellen, it took her three months. Not surprisingly after such a big investment of time and effort, the women planned a stay of three years – time to attend the wedding of émigré brother Herbert and still fit in a tour of the North Island, taking in, among other places, the fabled Pink and White Terraces of Lake Rotomahana. In special travel outfits of their own design (“a stout dungaree petticoat and a loose blouse bodice of thin cotton stuff”), the intrepid trio even visited Fiji and Samoa. “No white woman had ever been there,” journalled Bertha, with some pride, of a caving expedition to the Yasawa Islands.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review and Sociology

No getting away from the man, Linda Burgess

Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the World  Steve Braunias Awa Press, $36.00, ISBN 9781877551352 Steve Braunias is one of our very best writers. How does he do it, wonders the reviewer, as within a sentence Braunias moves from

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction and Review

Strictly for the birds, Steve Braunias

Charles Fleming’s Cape Expedition Diary: Auckland Islands, 1942-43 Mary McEwen McEwen Associates, $40.00,  ISBN  0473113848 Strange to think that the welcome swallow – a common sight everywhere in the North Island, and absent only in Fiordland and parts of Southland

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Posted in History, Natural History, Non-fiction and Review

Cock-a-doodle-do Jane Westaway

Roosters I Have Known Steve Braunias Awa Press, $30.00, ISBN 9780958275057 When my kids were small, we kept a bantam rooster called Mr Wingspan. The name was meant to be ironic, but what Mr Wingspan lacked in stature he more

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction and Review

On a wing and a prayer, Christine Johnston

How to Watch a Bird  Steve Braunias Awa Press, $24.99, ISBN 9780958262965 Steve Braunias is preaching to the converted in the case of this reviewer, who lives within cooee of native bush and shallow water. I can admire white-faced herons

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Posted in Natural History, Non-fiction and Review

Herons, dogs, lorikeets, Kim Griggs

Fool’s Paradise Steve Braunias Random House, $24.95, ISBN 1869414837 Sit Joe Bennett Hazard Press, $19.95, ISBN 1877270105 From the Heart Helen Brown HarperCollins, $24.95, ISBN 1869503996 According to Phillip Lopate, editor of The Art of the Personal Essay, the personal

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction and Review
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