“A kind of undressing”, Elspeth Sandys

Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History
Peter Wells
Massey University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780994143

Peter Wells is a wonderful writer, and this is almost a wonderful book.

Writing a family memoir (or, as the author calls this particular memoir, Uncovering a Pākehā History) is a risky business at the best of times, because no matter how extraordinary your family is – and Wells makes no claims for his to be other than what they are, unsung heroes of “ordinary” life – what will make or break the book is the quality of the mind interrogating those lives. Fortunately, what we have in Dear Oliver is a mind both well-informed – one of the many hats the author wears is that of historian – about the world he is imagining, sensitive to the inner lives of its citizens, and skilled at finding words that lift his tale out of the study into the bright light of lived experience. 

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