Blog Archives

From a trio of veterans, Anna Mackenzie

The Severed Land Maurice Gee Penguin, $20.00, ISBN 9780143770244 Shooting Stars Brian Falkner Scholastic, $21.00, ISBN 9781775433606 Cool Nukes Des Hunt Scholastic, $20.00, ISBN 9781775433422 As a veteran of more than 50 years, Maurice Gee is one of New Zealand’s

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Posted in Children, Fiction, Literature, Review and Young adults

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

The Richie McCaw of golf caddies, Spiro Zavos

Out of the Rough Steve Williams with Michael Donaldson Penguin, $40.00, ISBN 9780143573555   Here is Adam Scott, the languid Australian golfer, on the second playoff hole of the 2013 Masters. He has hit his second shot to the green.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction and Review

Captions and context, David Littlewood

The Anzacs: An Inside View of New Zealanders at Gallipoli
Auckland War Memorial Museum
Penguin, $45.00,
ISBN 9780143572336

Brothers in Arms: Gordon and Robin Harper in the Great War
Jock Phillips with Philip Harper and Susan Harper
NZHistoryJock, $40.00,
ISBN 9780473308773

One of the more encouraging historiographical developments of recent times has been a greater willingness to prioritise alternative sources. Instead of producing blocks of text with a few pictures thrown in for embellishment, scholars are increasingly using images as a central part of their efforts to communicate the “experiences” of the past. Both The Anzacs and Brothers in Arms demonstrate the potential of this approach for studies of New Zealand soldiers during the Great War. However, one of them manages to structure and balance its various elements more effectively than the other.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review and War

The place where stories begin, Paula Morris

Patricia Grace
Penguin, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143572398

It’s over a decade since Patricia Grace’s last novel, the moving, cinematic Tu – an ambitious book about war and its temptations, adventures and devastations for the men who went and the families left behind. Sparked by the wartime diary of Grace’s father, a member of the Māori Battalion, Tu should be a major nation-defining motion picture by now (Grace has already adapted it for the theatre).

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

“Shocking the model” John McCrystal

Five Minutes Alone
Paul Cleave
Penguin, $38.00,
ISBN 9780143572312

The Legend of Winstone Blackhat
Tanya Moir
Vintage, $38.00,
ISBN 9781775537755

Philip Temple
Font Publishing, $35.00,
ISBN 978047328204

You could argue that the artistic imagination is like one of those massively complex algorithms that scientists and economists use to search for patterns and rules in quotidian chaos. By constructing a simulacrum of reality and then tweaking the parameters – computer modellers call this “shocking the model” – they develop an understanding of the elasticity and sensitivity of the status quo to change. And by running a model forwards, they sometimes seek to construct a vision of the future, a probabilistic telling of our fortune.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review

Moving historiographical boundaries, Paul Moon

Man of Secrets: The Private Life of Donald McLean
Matthew Wright
Penguin, $40.00,
ISBN 9780143572213

At the Margin of Empire: John Webster and Hokianga, 1841–1900
Jennifer Ashton
Auckland University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781869408251

Those of us interested in reading about the past are increasingly confronted with history as abstraction or abstruse argument. Dense theoretical postulations tend to trump reasoned accounts of events, and entangled academic prose can displace engaging narrative. Here, though, are two biographies which in quite different ways are both antidotes to the creeping sterility of some history-writing, and which provide important perspectives on New Zealand’s maturation as a nation-state during the 19th century.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction and Review

Sex-free romance and YA cred, Paula Morris

Whiti Hereaka
Huia, $25.00,
ISBN 9781775501336

When We Wake
Karen Healey
Allen & Unwin, $22.00,
ISBN 9781742378084

Natalie King
Penguin, $20.00,
ISBN 9780143570790

Bugs, the eponymous protagonist of Whiti Hereaka’s first YA novel, is unimpressed with much of what her generation is expected to read. Her English teacher insists they discuss that infamous “human/werewolf/vampire love triangle … because the characters are our age, they’re going through what we’re going through, we can relate. Like half of us could relate to a white chick with a thing for dogs and dead dudes.”

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review and Young adults

Just perk up your ears, Barbara Else

The Life and Art of Lynley Dodd
Finlay Macdonald
Penguin, $50.00,
ISBN 9780143567967

A tousle on spindly legs has conquered the world. How did it happen? Finlay Macdonald’s biography of Lynley Dodd describes her journey from childhood in the Kaingaroa Forest in the middle of the North Island to her creation of the tousle, Hairy Maclary (from Donaldson’s dairy, as if you needed to be reminded) and on to the sale of many millions of picture books.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction and Review

Worlds old and new, Nicholas Reid

Rosetta Allan
Penguin, $30.00
ISBN 9780143571025

James Cook’s New World
Graeme Lay
Fourth Estate, $37.00
ISBN 9781775540410

There’s one current phenomenon in New Zealand literature that I’m watching with great interest. It’s the fact that, with a few honourable exceptions (Hamish Clayton’s Wulf, Owen Marshall’s The Larnachs, and the historical reconstructions of Peter Wells), all the best New Zealand historical novels are now being written by women – Paula Morris’s Rangatira, Charlotte Randall’s Hokitika Town and The Bright Side of My Condition, Sarah Quigley’s The Conductor, Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and (with minor misgivings) Tina Makereti’s Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature and Review
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