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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

Gloomy agreement, Tom Brooking

The New Zealand Project
Max Harris
Bridget Williams Books, $40.00,
ISBN 9780947492588

New Zealand: Paradise Squandered? Reflections on What We’ve Lost and Where We’re Heading
John Hawkes
John Hawkes, $40.00,
ISBN 9780473375553

Two New Zealanders at either end of their writing lives have set down their diagnosis on what is currently wrong with New Zealand and suggest some possible solutions that might be implemented to rid us of their rather lengthy list of ills.

Twenty-seven-year-old Max Harris is a law student and holder of a prestigious Examination Scholarship from All Souls College Oxford; John Hawkes is a retired rheumatologist who worked in the United Kingdom and France for several years and is now in his 80s. Despite the generational gap, they are pretty much agreed on what is wrong with New Zealand. 

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

Town and country, Simon Upton

The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920
Ben Schrader
Bridget Williams Books, $60.00,
ISBN 9780947492434

I live in a very large city – Paris. It is a melting-pot of anonymity, dynamic and dangerous. There are futuristic experiments in eco-design and saturated motorways; new season glitz on the cat-walks and terrorist attacks. The Bataclan attacks started just five minutes from my apartment. It is all very exciting. But I am not a city person.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Walking in more than one world, Paula Morris

Being Chinese Helene Wong Bridget Williams Books, $40.00, ISBN 9780947492380 Going Places: Migration, Economics and the Future of New Zealand Julie Fry and Hayden Glass BWB Texts, $15.00, ISBN 9780947492694 The First Migration: Maori Origins 3000 BC – AD 1450 Atholl Anderson

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Making women visible, Katie Pickles

A History of New Zealand Women
Barbara Brookes
Bridget Williams Books, $70.00,
ISBN 9780908321452

Locating women in history is difficult. New Zealand women are present through the occasional mention in books, official records and newspaper stories but, because they were not considered the stuff of proper historical knowledge, capturing their substance poses many challenges. Their lives, work and thoughts were deemed of secondary importance to men’s, with only a few famous women being known by name. Women’s many and varied contributions were underplayed at the time and through the years, with significant traces of them only remaining in oral traditions passed down through the generations.

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Posted in Gender, History, Non-fiction, Review

Driving home, Ann Beaglehole

Migrant Journeys: New Zealand Taxi Drivers tell their Stories Adrienne Jansen and Liz Grant (Michael Hall photographer) Bridget Williams Books, $40.00, ISBN 9781927277331 In Adrienne Jansen’s 1990 book I Have in My Arms Both Ways, 10 immigrant women told their

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Posted in Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

The archaeologist of memory, Ingrid Horrocks

The Dreaming Land Martin Edmond Bridget Williams Books, $40.00, ISBN 9780908321490 The Dreaming Land is Martin Edmond’s first full-length work of autobiography, but he’s been working in the territory of life writing and memoir for a long time. He is

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Dangerous confusion, Tim Hazledine

The Fire Economy: New Zealand’s Reckoning
Jane Kelsey
Bridget Williams Books, $50.00,
ISBN 9781927247839

“Imagine,” said the great physicist Richard Feynman, “how much harder physics would be if electrons had emotions!” Harder still, if not just emotions but consciousness, memory and reasoning power. Perhaps they do – I don’t know. I do know that people have these attributes and more, and I have come to appreciate just how difficult that fact makes life for those of us who study the human or social sciences, such as economics.

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Posted in Economics, Non-fiction, Review

Looking for home, David Cohen

Barefoot Years
Martin Edmond
Bridget Williams Books, $15.00,
ISBN 9781927277676

On Coming Home
Paula Morris
Bridget Williams Books, $15.00,
ISBN 9780908321117

Somewhere in the course of his perceptive career, in what one assumes was a more or less idle moment, George Orwell turned his attention to the question of whether purchasing cigarettes or literature leaves a larger hole in the average reader’s pocket. To this cobweb-hung dilemma, the English essayist devoted all the remorseless attention with which Marx went about weighing the merits of capitalism and socialism; although there the comparison must end, for Orwell surely never strung a gilded sentence together that would cause a reader mental pain on account of its construction. His tentative conclusion: reading is indeed better for one’s financial health. Workers of the world, unlight!

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction, Review

Tangata ora, Matariki Williams

Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History

Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha Harris
Bridget Williams Books, $100.00,
ISBN 9781927131411

The final chapter of the weighty Tangata Whenua is titled “Tangata Whenua, Tangata Ora”, and the book could just as easily have been called that. Throughout the three millennia that are chronicled, an overwhelming theme of the book is that Māori endure, adapt, and live. Any student of New Zealand history will have heard the unfortunate phrase uttered in 1856 by physician and politician Dr Isaac Featherston, that it was the duty of Europeans to “smooth down … [the] dying pillow” for Māori. His was a viewpoint brought forth by the belief that the indigenous population could not withstand European conquest and disease. What more of a testament to Māori endurance can there be than the release of a book detailing the way in which Māori live, nigh on 150 years after that phrase was uttered?

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Posted in History, Māori, Non-fiction, Review
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