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“A kind of undressing”, Elspeth Sandys

Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History
Peter Wells
Massey University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780994143

Peter Wells is a wonderful writer, and this is almost a wonderful book.

Writing a family memoir (or, as the author calls this particular memoir, Uncovering a Pākehā History) is a risky business at the best of times, because no matter how extraordinary your family is – and Wells makes no claims for his to be other than what they are, unsung heroes of “ordinary” life – what will make or break the book is the quality of the mind interrogating those lives. Fortunately, what we have in Dear Oliver is a mind both well-informed – one of the many hats the author wears is that of historian – about the world he is imagining, sensitive to the inner lives of its citizens, and skilled at finding words that lift his tale out of the study into the bright light of lived experience.

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“The retrospective glance”, Bronwyn Dalley

Journey to a Hanging: The Events that Set New Zealand Race Relations Back by a Century Peter Wells Vintage, $45.00 ISBN 9781775533900 As a child, I owned a Webster’s Illustrated Dictionary. My brother had bought it in mail-order instalments over

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review

Life in the bush, by the bay, Dougal McNeill

Speaking Frankly: The Frank Sargeson Memorial Lectures 2003-2010 Sarah Shieff (ed) Cape Catley, $31.99, ISBN 9781877340277   Celebrating Katherine Mansfield: A Centenary Volume of Essays Gerri Kimber and Janet Wilson (eds) Palgrave Macmillan, $162.00, ISBN 9780230277731   It was a

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Posted in Essays, Lecture, Literature, Non-fiction, Review

What we call the past, Martin Edmond

The Hungry Heart: Journeys with William Colenso Peter Wells Vintage, $49.99, ISBN 9781869794743   Give Your Thoughts Life: William Colenso’s Letters to the Editor  Ian St George (ed) Otago University Press, $60.00, ISBN 9781877578144   The Greek word historia, from

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Posted in Biography, History, Letters

Bovver boys

What they wrote A taste of contributor comments over our first 20 years   On New Zealand Books My hope is that New Zealand Books will provide a forum for frank discussion that dares to rise above the suffocating confines

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Posted in Comment

Meeting the ancestors, Peter Wells

A new history of homosexuality prompts Peter Wells to look back on his early life as a gay New Zealander.   It’s probably a reflection on the heft of a book that it makes you question your own sense of

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Scarred by difference, Ruth Nichol

Lucky Bastard Peter Wells Vintage, $27.99, ISBN 9781869419431 At a recent funeral for a friend’s father many of us were surprised – and surprisingly moved – when a uniformed soldier played The Last Post. It struck a sombre note during

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Self-portrait with wooden spoon, Lois Daish

The Kindness of Strangers: Kitchen Memoirs Shonagh Koea (illustrations by Peter Wells) Vintage, $34.99, ISBN 9781869419189  It wasn’t in her own mother’s kitchen that the young Shonagh found out food could make her happy. Things at home were a bit

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Invitation to a smorgasbord, Christine Johnston

The Cat’s Whiskers: New Zealand Writers on Cats ed Peter Wells Random House, $29.95, ISBN 1869417453 The Best New Zealand Fiction Volume 2 ed Fiona Kidman Random House, $29.95, ISBN 1869417402 Huia Short Stories 6: Contemporary Maori Fiction Huia, $29.95,

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review, Short stories

One-night stands, Christine Johnston

Next to Gods: A Cleaner’s Story  Don Franks Four Winds Press, $14.95, ISBN 0958251487 On Getting Old  Kevin Ireland Four Winds Press, $14.95, ISBN 0958251479 On Going to the Movies Peter Wells Four Winds Press, $14.95, ISBN 0958251460 I have

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Posted in Essays, Non-fiction, Review
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