Blog Archives

Controversial still, John O’Leary

A Communist In The Family
Elspeth Sandys
Otago University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988531601

Families are complicated things. Members don’t necessarily agree with one another, or even like one another; relationships can be strained, or snapped, then re-made across the years. This is never truer than when one family member breaks ranks and does something out of the ordinary.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

“New Zealand’s leading public historian”, Tom Brooking

Making History: A New Zealand Story
Jock Phillips
Auckland University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781869408992

Jock Phillips has written an engaging memoir of his challenge to his father’s Anglophile and Eurocentric view of history, and transition from an academic to a public historian. This crisply written account is of particular interest to someone whose career has overlapped with Phillips’s, but should appeal to anyone concerned about how New Zealand history can be made available to a wide audience in stimulating ways. Whoever reads about this journey will also quickly learn that New Zealand history is anything but dull.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in History, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Diplomat, translator, academic … Ken Ross

From Cairo To Cassino: A Memoir Of Paddy Costello
Dan Davin
Cold Hub Press, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473474485    

Paddy Costello’s forte was Russian scholarship. Dan Davin’s was academic publishing. Each acquired other formidable reputations by which they are better known to New Zealanders: Davin as a fiction writer, though his masterly tome Crete (1953) is a war history, and Costello as a Soviet spy, which he was not.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

The Hutt Valley takes Manhattan … Murray Bramwell

Book Of Cohen 
David Cohen
Steele Roberts, $30.00,
ISBN 9780947493882

Book Of Cohen is a singular volume with multiple objectives: “This was always going to be a work by one Cohen (that would be me) on another Cohen (that would be Leonard)”. “I’ve always been Cohen-mad,” the author confides, “but there was another Cohen lurking in the picture as well.”

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Essays, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

A view of the inner cemeteries, Reuben Johnson

Mind that Child: A Medical Memoir
Simon Rowley with Adam Dudding
Penguin, $35.00, ISBN 9780143771982

We can Make a Life: A Memoir of Family, Earthquake and Courage
Chessie Henry
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776561940

Dr Simon Rowley is a Senior Consultant Neonatologist at the Auckland City Hospital, and Adam Dudding is an award-winning journalist. Mind that Child is Rowley’s professional memoir, in which he reflects on his experiences and career as a neonatologist and on his interest in neonatal brain development.

Chessie Henry is a freelance copywriter. We can Make a Life, her first book, is a family memoir centred around her father, a rural Kaikoura GP who was awarded the New Zealand Bravery Medal for his role in the collapsed CTV building following the Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

See more ›

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Health, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

The light, fantastic toe, Jennifer Shennan

Limbs Dance Company – Dance for All People, 1977–1989 
Marianne Schultz
Marianne Schultz in conjunction with DANZ, $40.00
ISBN 9780473407698

This book about Limbs, New Zealand’s brightest modern dance troupe, in its heyday in 1980s Auckland, is dedicated “for Sue Paterson, a dear and true friend”. Sue was the long-term General Manager of the company. How poignant, then, to be reviewing this book in the same week that we have farewelled the lifelong visionary arts administrator, who died after a prolonged illness that devastated her body, but never extinguished her spirit. Quite like Limbs really. Schultz has told the company’s story well, setting it in the context of its times. History will thank her for that and we should, too.

See more ›

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Art, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

With thanks, Jane Westaway

Memory Pieces
Maurice Gee
Victoria University Press, $35.00,
ISBN 9781776562077

Anyone who has taken even a passing interest in Maurice Gee’s long career must be aware that his childhood has been the ongoing imaginative source of his fiction, and that he was unlikely to ever report on it in a memoir. Now, here comes his three-part Memory Pieces.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction

Patchwork, Lisa Warrington

These Two Hands: A Memoir Renée Mākaro Press, $38.00, ISBN 9780994137845 These Two Hands is the memoir of a woman’s life which is simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary. Born in Napier in 1929, Renée has lived through tumultuous times, both in

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

“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.

See more ›

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Tracing trauma, Jane Westaway

Driving to Treblinka: A Long Search for a Lost Father
Diana Wichtel
Awa Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781927249406

How do human beings survive horror? The answer seems to be that they do and they don’t. Some part of them is crushed and never recovers; other parts move on, around and away from the trauma, carrying on to the best of any remaining ability. This is certainly so for Diana Wichtel’s father, the subject of her memoir Driving to Treblinka. Its subtitle echoes throughout the book: A Long Search for a Lost Father. A man who was lost to his daughter, her siblings and their wider family, to the grim forces of history, and to himself.

See more ›

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review
Search the archive
Search by category