Blog Archives

The good, the bad and the ugly, John O’Leary

Scoundrels and Eccentrics of the Pacific
John Dunmore
Upstart Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781988516219

William Deans: The Passionate Pioneer
Louise Deans
Wily Publications, $35.00,
ISBN: 9781927167342

Just as Australia’s Outback has its “characters” (according to popular legend, at least), so that other vast open space near us in New Zealand, the Pacific, has or had its eccentrics – people who, for a variety of reasons, found their own settled societies too small, too tight, or too law-abiding, and who preferred the watery immensity of the planet’s largest ocean, dotted with its constellations of islands, as the stage set for their lives.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

The long and the short of it, Jock Phillips

A Peculiar Gentleman: George Rusden – A Life 
John O’Leary
Australian Scholarly, $50.00,
ISBN 9781925333404

The World, the Flesh and the Devil: The Life and Opinions of Samuel Marsden in England and the Antipodes, 1765-1838
Andrew Sharp
Auckland University Press, $75.00,
ISBN 9781869408121

There are many similarities between these two books. Both are biographies, both are well-written, intelligent works, and both treat subjects with unusual ideas about race relations. More significantly, both books concern men, Samuel Marsden, missionary, and George Rusden, historian, who were English-born, but spent much of their lives near Sydney (before Rusden moved to Melbourne), and then achieved their greatest fame and influence through an involvement with New Zealand.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction, Review

Undesirables and worthies, John O’Leary

The Girl Who Stole Stockings: The True Story of Susannah Noon and the Women of the Convict Ship Friends Elsbeth Hardie Australian Teachers of Media, $40.00, ISBN 9781876467241 May Your Shadow Never Grow Less: The Life and Times of Henry

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Necromancy and piety, John O’Leary

A Blighted Fame: George S Evans 1802-1868, A Life
Helen Riddiford
Victoria University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9780864738967

For Gallant Service Rendered: The Life & Times of Samuel Austin
Barbara Mabbett
Steele Roberts, $35.00,
ISBN 9781877577710

Biography is a strange genre, despite our familiarity with it. There’s something uncanny about it, in that it’s a kind of necromancy – a raising of the dead, so to speak. It can also be an act of piety, a way of honouring those who have passed on – an assertion, in the face of oblivion, that an individual’s life had meaning and significance. Piety of this kind lies behind the two books reviewed here, which describe the lives of two colonial New Zealanders who have slipped into the historical twilight.

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More pork and potatoes, anyone? John O’Leary

Poenamo Revisited John Logan Campbell (essay and notes by R C J Stone) Godwit, $60.00, ISBN 9781869797980 Most New Zealanders – even those living south of the Bombay Hills – have heard of John Logan Campbell, the Father of Auckland,

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To-ing and fro-ing, John O’Leary

Henry Lawson in New Zealand Charles Ferrall (ed) Steele Roberts, $29.99, ISBN 9781877577390   Who could be more Australian than Henry Lawson? He was born on a New South Wales goldfield, wandered and worked in the outback, and wrote stories

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Posted in History, Literature, Review

The future world of 1881, John O’Leary

The Great Romance  The Inhabitant; Dominic Alessio (ed) University of Nebraska Press, US$17.95, ISBN 9780803259966 At a time when James Cameron’s film Avatar is breaking box-office records, thanks largely to the hyper-vivid, computer-generated images of the planet Pandora provided by

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review
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