Humour tinges very sad story

04:50, Mar 19 2012

Shaken, Not Stirred: Family Survival in a Quake Zone
By Amanda Cropp (Wily Publications, RRP $30)

For those of us who do not live there, it's hard to imagine the fear and uncertainty that has swamped Canterbury since the quakes.

On September 4, 2010, I was at home when the first biggie struck: before heading off to bed I checked the GeoNet website and saw it was a 7.1 in Canterbury. Being a naive Southlander, where we've had quakes as big and even bigger, I was shocked when I woke later that morning to the news of devastation.

We all felt for Canterbury, and just a couple of weeks later when we spent a night in the city on our way to the Gold Coast we were stunned at the amount of damage.

Then when the deadly 6.3 magnitude quake struck on February 22 last year, we were all stopped in our tracks as the stories emerged of death and destruction, heroism and survival.

Since then, we've seen the big stories of new quakes, demolitions and more, but it is still hard to imagine what it must be like to live with them.

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Journalist Amanda Cropp gives readers a taste of what life has been like for her and her family: sharing a portable toilet with the neighbours for months on end or showering in a shipping container.

The book started out as a 3000-word diary written for a magazine. However, reader reaction to the story was so positive the author decided to expand the diary into a book.

Cropp gives an intimate insight into what life has been like, with honesty and often also with humour.

The loss of life and devastation to New Zealand's second largest city is truly awful and, naturally, parts of Cropp's diary are incredibly sad.

However, other parts are uplifting and highlight the staunch Kiwi sense of humour, such as buying seat belts for television sets and meeting a woman in the street who said of the lack of flushing toilets as a result of the disaster: "Thank goodness I've been doing yoga so I can squat."