Shirley Smith: An Examined Life
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
In Wellington, it is difficult to find a lawyer, judge, or even a member of the Mongrel Mob of a certain age, who does not have a Shirley Smith story. The stories are good and bad. Many are insignificant, but they offer insight into her character. I was told about her understandable hostility to a junior lawyer, who was sent to the Smith house in Brooklyn to retrieve and organise some of her husband Bill Sutch’s papers. Smith stuck to her like lichen each day for a fortnight while she did her job and never offered her a cup of tea. I was told that Smith struck up conversations with people she did not know, who had come to visit their own relatives at the rest home in which she lived at the end of her life. One of these people told me about her delight at meeting a friendly, highly intelligent old lady, who said she studied the classics at Oxford University. Those who attended her funeral at St Andrew’s still talk about the powerful haka that echoed up and down the Terrace.
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