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Loosening stiff upper lips, Charlotte Graham

Leap of Faith 
Jenny Pattrick
Black Swan, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143770916

Good Sons
Greg Hall
Mary Egan Publishing, $32.00,
ISBN 9780473383787

It seems there are two major challenges for any author wanting to write about New Zealand in some of its formative historical periods. One is the research. The other is conveying the spirit of tough people who lived tough lives, when often these were men and women of few words. The tendency of our forebears not to respond to even the most brutal of conditions, or to utterly cavernous moments of grief and loss, with anything other than stoicism, has bred an odd national reluctance to talk about our problems that persists, in some forms, to the present day. It presents an even bigger challenge to writers of historical fiction, who need to convey moments of hope and anguish among the austere, taciturn Pākehā of 1907 or 1917 without breaking character or boring us to tears. On screen, it can be done with sideways looks: the raise of an eyebrow, or a mumbled syllable. But Jenny Pattrick, author of Leap of Faith, and Greg Hall, in his book Good Sons, have set themselves a difficult task to convey it through text.

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War stories, Anne Else

Passing Through
Coral Atkinson
Dancing Tuatara, $35.00,
ISBN 9780473262693

Heartland
Jenny Pattrick
Black Swan, $37.00,
ISBN 9781775535850

Tropic of Guile
Sue McCauley
Xlibris, $42.00,
ISBN 9781483683195

All three of these novels centre on hard-won survival against the odds of poverty, violence and malice, offset by love, loyalty and friendship; but the clashes they chronicle range widely in time, place and complexity.

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Another country, Catharina van Bohemen

Alice and Luigi Graeme Lay David Ling, $29.99, ISBN 1877378070 In Touch with Grace Jenny Pattrick Black Swan, $27.99, ISBN 1869417674 As we grow older,  we look over our shoulders. We want to see where we came from, whether our

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Heroes, villains, fatal flaws, Jenny Robin Jones

Catching the Current Jenny Pattrick Black Swan, $27.95, ISBN 1869417259 Union Belle Deborah Challinor HarperCollins, $31.99, ISBN 186950559X The Love Apple Coral Atkinson Black Swan, $27.95, ISBN 1869417208 New Zealanders, we are told, are avid for their history. To help

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Like a good ballad, Catharina van Bohemen

Heart of Coal  Jenny Pattrick Black Swan, $26.95, ISBN 186941604X Heart of Coal is the sequel to Jenny Pattrick’s highly Successful Denniston Rose – the story of the isolated inhabitants of the coal-mining town of Denniston on the West Coast.

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Light reading, dark lives, Margie Thomson

The Denniston Rose Jenny Pattrick Black Swan, $26.95, ISBN 1869415612 This highly readable historical novel has already had a big thumbs-up from readers, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s a darkly engaging story that almost constitutes a new

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More show than substance, Jenny Pattrick

The Arts & Crafts Movement in New Zealand 1870-1940 Ann Calhoun Auckland University Press, $89.95, ISBN 1869402294 This is a large and handsome art book. Its hardcover, square format, copious illustrations and intelligent design suggest an honoured place on the

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Posted in Art, History, Non-fiction and Review
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