The latest book reviews from The Southland Times reviewers.
By Graeme Horncastle (Pavilions Hotel, RRP, $30)
Reviewed by Naida Mulligan
This autobiography, subtitled A New Zealand Family Story, was not at first a must-read for me. From the title and cover, I assumed it was an immigration story and, coupled with the heavy weight of the book, it did seem to lack appeal. However, the author's preface hooked me and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.
Graeme Horncastle grew up in Karamea, on the West Coast of the South Island, one of seven surviving children. The family barely made ends meet and it was a difficult upbringing with a depressive drunk for a father although it seems that Graeme's mother was the rock that every young person needs in their formative years, a "saint" in his own words. Sadly she had a weak heart and died aged only 42. Graeme was already grown and left home at that stage but her death was devastating for him nonetheless.
The interesting thing about Graeme Horncastle is that he has drive and tenacity, the gift of the gab and an innate ability to make money. Along with his wife, Maureen, (married when she was 15, he 17) he has slogged, wheeled, dealed and made millions, mainly in the hotel trade.
Despite his success, Graeme has also faced difficulties, following in his father's (and grandfather's) footsteps, of depression and alcoholism. Interestingly, his limited schooling meant that he could barely spell when he started this book at age 55. Reading and writing was a skill he employed others for.
There is a ghost writer, Mike Bradstock. The words, though, are Graeme's and he sure can tell a good yarn. His story is inspiring. Today, with his family, he owns and operates The Pavilions Hotel in Christchurch. You can read more information about the book and purchase it by visiting horncastlessuitcase.co.nz.xx
New Zealand through the Goalposts
By Fay Looney (New Holland, RRP, $20)
Reviewed by Naida and Conal Mulligan (aged 8)
This compact book would make a great gift or souvenir. Most of the photographs contain rugby goalposts and the scenery glimpsed through them is simply stunning, from Mt Taranaki to Christchurch Boys' High School with many spectacular scenes from in between and further south. Some of New Zealand's most famous players are captured - the likes of Colin, Tana, Waka and, of course, Richie McCaw.
The text is succinct and much of it of historical interest. For example, you can learn that Sir Colin "Pinetree" Meads was judged New Zealand's Player of the Century in 1999. He played 55 tests as an All Black over 15 seasons.
We liked that ordinary New Zealanders are also shown - people who just love to kick an oval shaped ball around a field. This book "captures the essence of heartland rugby in an evocative journey through the lens".
Traces of Red
By Paddy Richardson (Penguin, RRP $30)
Reviewed by F Mulligan
A family is brutally murdered in their home. Police charge the mother's brother (Connor Bligh) and he is tried and convicted. Now in Rimutaka Prison and still proclaiming his innocence, there is only a slim chance of gaining his freedom in a retrial that is being applied for.
Enter stage right Rebecca Thorne, TV journalist, who is facing a downturn in her career.
Connor Bligh's story may be the hard-hitting, award-taking documentary subject she needs.
Brilliant, shy, adoring brother - cold, calculating, evil - will the real Connor Bligh step forward?
As Rebecca's investigation deepens, she becomes emotionally involved which affects her private life and impacts on the outcome for Bligh.
This is a modern New Zealand novel with lots of echoes of real events. It holds up a mirror to crime reporting in the media, and provides a classic did-he-didn't-he.
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