Short reviews, Dale Williams

A Dissolving Dream: A New Zealander in Amin’s Uganda,
Heather Benson,
Bridget Williams Books, $29.95

They met and married in Wellington, then returned to Joe’s native Uganda to live. As their children are born, and Heather starts rebuilding a run-down nursery school, Idi Amin and his death squads make daily life ever more strained and frightening. When her marriage collapses, Heather manages to escape back to New Zealand with her children. That’s the bare bones, but Heather’s account of the years 1969-75 is at once an absorbing portrait of cultural clash with a loving marriage, and the story of Uganda’s years of terror and decline. No detached observer, she tells her story with passion and intelligence; the result is a compelling read and a constant reminder of the fragility of civilisation.

As the number of bodies climbed into the thousands, the crocodiles, fat and replete, could not dispose of them and the corpses were swept to the banks or carried to the power station near the Owen Falls Dam. Musoke … told us of the divers he had seen disentangling bodies from the hydro-electric machinery.



My Father and Me: New Zealand women remember
Penelope Hansen,
Tandem Press, $34.95

Three rousing boos for kitset anthologies – at their worst box-office approach to bookselling in which the readers’ interests come a poor third to the industry’s desire to use celebrity names to make a quick buck, and limelight-lovers’ need for another stage to strut. That off my chest, it should be said that such books may always be redeemed by the quality of some individual contributions. A scattering of the contributors to this collection of reminiscences about Dad from 36 well-known New Zealand women (out of 58 approached) have something worthwhile to say – notably Gaylene Preston and Pauline O’Regan. Interspersed are somewhat self-conscious Pa-poems or stories from 15 local writers, most previously published. Family snaps illustrate.

It … tainted the way I saw men for a long time. Strong, silent people coming alive in a wondrous and scary way after a few drinks. It’s taken me a long time to discover something different. – Joanna Paul

He wants to see the year 2000 and has paced himself for this event. After that he will work further on his immortality.  – Gaylene Preston


Dale Williams is a Wellington writer and editor.


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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction, Review
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