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Letters 

Ignoring the book

I would like to respond to some of the criticisms of A Field Officer’s Notebook (AFON) made by Tom McLean in his review “Shivers of emotion” (NZB Spring 2018). 

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Posted in Letters

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.

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Posted in Art, Memoir, 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

Where perspectives collide, John McCrystal 

The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke
Tina Makereti
Vintage, $38.00, ISBN 9780143771562

You don’t have to be a good old-fashioned structuralist to look into the patterns of history and see the tectonic grind of ideas reflected in the rippling of the surface, in the lives of individuals. It has seldom been enough for an emperor to appeal to might alone for the justification of hegemony. In practically every instance, a grand idea has been vaunted as the basis for the moral authority to rule. The wane of empires has usually been accompanied by a shift in philosophy, but not necessarily cleanly, completely, or all at once.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

The Māori economy, old and new, Gyles Beckford

Heke Tangata: Māori in Markets and Cities
Brian Easton for Te Whanau o Waipareira
Oratia Books, $30.00,
ISBN 9780947506438

In late 1984, a small group of Māori politicians, public servants and their helpers, invented an iwi to welcome hundreds of Māori from around the country to parliament for the Hui Taumata – the Māori Economic Summit. As delegates of different iwi arrived in the old Legislative Chamber, they were welcomed by the “Ngati Beehive”, an eclectic mix of organisers and staff of different tribal and ethnic backgrounds. The Hui Taumata was a less publicised, lower profile version of the newly elected Labour Government’s Economic Summit, at which Sue Bradford made such an impact. But its significance was that it drew together in a forum the collective voice of Māori, highlighted not just the difficulties, the deprivation and the obstacles, but looked at Māori resources, the positives, the solutions, and the future possibilities.

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Posted in Economics, Non-fiction, Review

Melody slithering through the misery, Martin Lodge

Good-bye Maoriland: The Songs and Sounds of New Zealand’s Great War
Chris Bourke
Auckland University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 978869408718

For both civilians and the soldiers alike on active service during WWI, music proved a significant and enduring element of New Zealand’s war effort and war experience. This was recognised at the time: a contributor to the onboard magazine of the Opawa, a ship carrying troops to Europe, wrote in 1917 that “A ship without a musical programme is like a dog without a tail.”

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Posted in Māori, Music, Non-fiction, Review

A child’s-eye view, Anna Mackenzie

The Mapmakers’ Race Eirlys Hunter, Gecko Press, $25.00

Time Twins Arne Norlin and Sally Astridge, Submarine, $25.00

Finding David Hill, Puffin, $20.00

The bonds of family and place, seen from an appropriately youthful viewpoint, are the key players in three recent offerings for younger readers.

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Posted in Children, Literature, Review

Giving them what they want, Linda Burgess

Donato and the Cartege Blade
Fiona Jordan
Mary Egan Publishing, $25.00,
ISBN 9780473437367

1918: Broken Poppies Des Hunt, Scholastic, $19.00,

How Not to Stop a Kidnap Plot Suzanne Main, Scholastic, $17.00,

Dawn Raid Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith, Scholastic, $18.00,

Unlike the other books reviewed, Fiona Jordan’s Donata and the Cartege Blade is not set in a current or historical New Zealand. Its setting is recognisable, though. Time – Middle Ages, round about: place – fantasy land. This means there are monasteries, cloaked monks, ruined abbeys, looming mountains, ancient castles with dark passages, attempted assassinations and more than a hint of issues to do with identity. Indeed, quite early on in the novel, the protagonist learns he is no ordinary boy. He is the child of important parents, and who they are is one of the main threads running through the story. As a baby, it became clear that he was at risk of being murdered, so he was deftly swapped with another baby. Which was rather unfortunate for the replacement baby, for whom the swap turned out to be fatal.

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review

Wading in the waters, Sam Mahon

Beyond Manapouri: 50 Years of Environmental Politcs in New Zealand
Catherine Knight
Canterbury University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988503042

The battle to preserve our waters in this country has left us, as a nation, almost as bruised and divided as we were during the Springbok tour. There is a moment in the middle of any maelstrom in which you wonder how you got there; by which wrong move; by courtesy of whose malevolent god in particular. As if in answer, Catherine Knight has elegantly traced the evolution of environmental politics from Manapouri in 1972 to the Ruataniwha dam 30 years later. It is an overlay of torn landscapes, muddied waters, greed and broken hearts; it is a paean of lost opportunities.

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Posted in Natural 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
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