Blog Archives

Before and after, Christina Stachurski

Remembering Christchurch: Voices from Decades Past Alison Parr Penguin, $45.00, ISBN 9780143573371 A Villa at the End of the Empire: One Hundred Ways to Read a City Fiona Farrell Vintage, $40.00, ISBN 9781775537519 King Rich Joe Bennett HarperCollins, $37.00, ISBN

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Posted in Non-fiction and Sociology

Permolat and dogbox bivs, Hannah McGregor

Tramping: A New Zealand History
Shaun Barnett and Chris Maclean
Craig Potton, $70.00,
ISBN 9781927213230

Tramping: A New Zealand History travels lightly through terrain which will feel familiar to many of its readers, the extended family of woollen-sock wearing, pack-hauling, bushwhackers. These people exist in sufficient numbers in this country to ensure this history will eventually become a collectors’ item. To obtain it, it will become necessary to tramp well into the back shelves of second-hand bookshops.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

The fungibility of human longevity, Charlotte Paul

The Healthy Country?: A History of Life and Death in New Zealand
Alistair Woodward and Tony Blakely
Auckland University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781869408138

Non-Māori New Zealanders lived longer than any other peoples on earth between 1876 and 1940. Figuring out why is the starting point for this fascinating and scholarly study. Of course, even this statement begs a question. These figures apply to only a segment, not the total population of New Zealand, yet the comparisons are generally with total populations of other countries. Nevertheless, the non-Māori life expectancy was far ahead, and this was the only data available until 1913 (when Māori deaths were first collected). Moreover, epidemiologists Woodward and Blakely are properly even-handed and comprehensive in investigating both Māori and non-Māori life expectancy from pre-contact until 2011.

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Posted in Health, History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Culinary design and display, Peta Mathias

Kitchens: The New Zealand Kitchen in the 20th Century
Helen Leach
Otago University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781877578373

Professor Helen Leach, the author of Kitchens: The New Zealand Kitchen in the 20th Century, is simply a national treasure, along with her sisters Mary Browne and Nancy Tichborne – talk about a heavenly power trio. If we didn’t have Leach’s scholarly, meticulously researched, riveting books on culinary history, we would have had to invent her. Shame about the uninspiring cover, though – maybe it’s an Otago University Press thing: mustn’t be too bright or shiny.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Where’s Rewi? Mary Roberts 

White Ghosts, Yellow Peril: China and New Zealand 1790–1959
Stevan Eldred-Grigg with Zeng Dazheng
Otago University Press, $55.00,
ISBN 9781877578656

Stevan Eldred-Grigg and Zeng Dazheng have, in some respects, written the book that I’ve been waiting for. This is a thorough, readable and comprehensive survey of relations between China and New Zealand in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. It also provides a balanced and enlightening account of the growth of the “traditional” Chinese community in New Zealand: that is, the largely Cantonese community that New Zealanders of my generation (born in the 1950s) and older knew as the New Zealand Chinese. The New Zealand Chinese community is now made up of people whose origins are from all over the Sinophone world, but for many decades its members were largely from three small areas of Guangdong (Canton) province.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction and Sociology

Lessons from history, Bronwyn Labrum

Rough on Women: Abortion in 19th Century New Zealand
Margaret Sparrow
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739360

Someone I follow on Twitter reported that a friend of hers had no idea that abortion is yet to be decriminalised in New Zealand. This was tweeted in the context of the debates about the 2014 general election, when issues about abortion were barely raised. Increasingly liberal practice since the late 1970s has made abortion services more widely accessible, and extremely safe. But those who were part of that social media conversation, as well as a much wider audience, deserve to read this second, much needed book from the redoubtable Margaret Sparrow, well-known for her long career in reproductive and general health and publicly recognised for her services to medicine and to the community.

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Posted in Gender, Health, History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

No drive-by answers, David Cohen

Sorrows of a Century: Interpreting Suicide in New Zealand, 1900-2000
John C Weaver
Bridget Williams Books, $60.00,
ISBN 9781927277232

All of us seek happiness, Pascal declared centuries ago, even at the point of a warm gun. “This is without exception,” argued the author of the Pensées:

Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.

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Posted in Health, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

A poverty of compassion, Rod Oram

Child Poverty in New Zealand
Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple
Bridget Williams Books, $50.00,
ISBN 9781927247860

“New Zealand has the necessary resources to reduce child poverty, and equitable and efficient ways to secure these resources are available. The question is not about our capacity, it is about our political will.” This is the unequivocal conclusion of Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple in their book Child Poverty in New Zealand. They base it on their exhaustive analysis of the scale, complexity and damage of child poverty, and the myriad ways we could tackle it.

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Posted in Non-fiction, Politics & Law, Review and Sociology

Yesterday today, Glyn Harper

How We Remember: New Zealanders and the First World War
Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts (eds)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739353

With the centenary of WWI now upon us, a flood of books on New Zealand’s role in that conflict can be expected. The first of these appeared in late 2013, and this trend will continue for the next few years. Amongst the books on offer in 2014 is How We Remember: New Zealanders and the First World War edited by Charles Ferrall and Harry Ricketts. Few of the publications that will appear over the coming years will match How We Remember for its diversity or its insights.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Sociology and War

Outstanding achievement or pitiful war? Janet Hunt

Making a New Land: Environmental Histories of New Zealand
Eric Pawson and Tom Brooking (eds)
Otago University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781877578526

Making a New Land: Environmental Histories of New Zealand is a revised, expanded and renamed edition of Environmental Histories of New Zealand (Oxford University Press, 2002). The new title is both more inviting and in keeping with an updated cover that clearly signals what is within: it is in attractive earthen tones and features William Sutton’s painting, Hills and Plains, Waikari 1956, in which the neatly segmented fields of the North Canterbury plains occupy the centre, framed at the top by tan-hued foothills and the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps and, at the bottom, by grey, featureless blocks of farm buildings. The dark shapes of macrocarpa windbreaks are conspicuous in the foreground and in the far distance. The view is devoid of indigenous vegetation, or animal or human life. It is a landscape that has been well and truly remade.

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Posted in History, Natural History, Review and Sociology
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