Blog Archives

Colonial orientalism, Paula Morris

Galleries of Maoriland: Artists, Collectors and the Māori World, 1880–1910 
Roger Blackley
Auckland University Press, $75.00,
ISBN 9781869409357

The cover image of Roger Blackley’s impressive new book is a famous one: a tea break in Charles Goldie’s frame-stacked studio in 1901, Pātara Te Tuhi holding cup and saucer, his trousers and dusty boots visible below the sweep of his woven cloak. Both men seem deep in thought. Goldie – starched collar, shiny boots – was just 30, recently returned from studies in Paris; he’d seen a number of Gottfried Lindauer’s Māori portraits at the 1898–99 Auckland exhibition and begun his own rise to national fame.

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Posted in Art, History, Non-fiction, Review

Going high, Julia Millen

To the Mountains: A Collection of New Zealand Alpine Writing
Laurence Fearnley and Paul Hersey (eds)
Otago University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781988531205

Since the arrival of Pacific peoples, New Zealand’s mountains have enthralled and enchanted. Māori revered the craggy peaks from afar while they forged ways through the hinterland. The first European explorer, Abel Tasman, sailing to the Southern Ocean in 1642, recorded the sighting of “a large land, uplifted high”. Captain Cook’s crew were bent on “conquest” in more ways than one. This collection features the 1998 re-enactment by 13 climbers of the 1773 ascent of Mt Sparrman in Fiordland, made by a party from Cook’s second voyage on the Resolution.

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Posted in History, Literature, Natural History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

The good, the bad and the ugly, John O’Leary

Scoundrels and Eccentrics of the Pacific
John Dunmore
Upstart Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988516219

William Deans: The Passionate Pioneer
Louise Deans
Wily Publications, $35.00,
ISBN: 9781927167342

Just as Australia’s Outback has its “characters” (according to popular legend, at least), so that other vast open space near us in New Zealand, the Pacific, has or had its eccentrics – people who, for a variety of reasons, found their own settled societies too small, too tight, or too law-abiding, and who preferred the watery immensity of the planet’s largest ocean, dotted with its constellations of islands, as the stage set for their lives.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Undercooked, Paul Moon

The Pacific in the Wake of Captain Cook, with Sam Neill
Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
HarperCollins, $45.00,
ISBN 9781460756393

Is there anything new to say about Captain James Cook’s expeditions to the Pacific? Edited accounts of his voyages appeared from 1773 and, in just the last 20 years, over 200 books on this remarkable explorer and mariner have been published. However, it is now 250 years since Cook departed on the first of his great voyages to the South Pacific and, being an anniversary year, what better time to tap into the publicity surrounding his feats? The Pacific in the Wake of Captain Cook accompanies a lavishly-produced television series presented with a comfortable balance of gravitas and intimacy by New Zealand actor Sam Neill. But is this book a cast-off from the television series, or does it stand on its own in any way as a useful contribution to the literature on the topic?

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Down by the river, Nicholas Reid

The Waikato – A History of New Zealand’s Greatest River
Paul Moon
Atuanui Press, $70.00, ISBN 9780994137616

At 425 kilometres, the Waikato is the longest river in New Zealand. The case Paul Moon makes in The Waikato – A History of New Zealand’s Greatest River is that it is also the most culturally significant.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Whose history? Simon Hay

The Expatriate Myth: New Zealand Writers and the Colonial World 
Helen Bones
Otago University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781988531175

The Expatriates 
Martin Edmond
Bridget Williams Books, $50.00,
ISBN 9781988533179

Helen Bones aims to dismantle the “myth” that New Zealand writers, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, had to leave New Zealand to pursue careers as writers. She argues that this myth is wrong in at least two directions: first, that many New Zealand writers stayed and wrote and published, in New Zealand – that New Zealand was at this time not the cultural wasteland that it was made out to be by the generation of scholars she calls the “cultural nationalists”; and, second, that writers who did leave had neither an easier nor a harder time of it than those who stayed. Her book is a quantitative study, insofar as it can be: not interested in the “content” of books, but in “comprehensive data collection”, “literary empirical techniques”, and “a dataset of publications”. Her goal is to “quantify the significance of literary expatriatism”.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

The costs of war, Jock Phillips

Gallipoli to the Somme: Recollections of a New Zealand Infantryman
Alexander Aitken (Alex Calder ed)
Auckland University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781869408817

Odyssey of the Unknown Anzac
David Hastings
Auckland University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781869408824

As we come towards the end of the four-year centenary of the Great War, the question looms: what have we learnt over these years about what was arguably the greatest trauma affecting the largest number of people that this country has ever seen?

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Posted in History, Review, War

Historical revisionism, Kirstie Ross

Phoney Wars: New Zealand Society in the Second World War
Stevan Eldred-Grigg with Hugh Eldred-Grigg
Otago University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9780947522230

The first Anzac Day during WWII shows us some of the multifarious, sometimes conflicting views of the war and by extension, the dominion’s commitment to it.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Bustling energy, Kate Hunter

Make Her Praises Heard Afar: New Zealand Women Overseas in World War One
Jane Tolerton
Booklovers Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9780473399658

As many scholars have observed, it is very difficult to write a history of women and war. Not only is war regarded culturally as men’s domain, but capturing women’s stories is beset by methodological difficulties.

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Posted in Gender, History, Non-fiction, Review, War

Getting the archive to the people, Matariki Williams

He Reo Wāhine: Māori Women’s Voices from the Nineteenth Century
Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla
Auckland University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781869408664

This book is weighty with expectation, what unfolds within its covers being immediately problematised by the title, He Reo Wāhine: Māori Women’s Voices from the Nineteenth Century. The title is a subtle nod to the reality that the “voices” the book is highlighting have yet to be heard in broad New Zealand histories.

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Posted in Gender, History, Māori, Non-fiction, Review
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