From The Southland Times book reviewers.
Waiorongomai: The Land and the People
By Linda Thornton (Fraser Books, RRP $45)
Reviewed by Naida Mulligan
This is a huge tome that tells the story of the Matthews family. Charles and Elizabeth arrived in New Zealand in 1842 on the London and eventually began a farm in the Wairarapa which their descendants, the seventh generation, still farm today.
Centred on one family, at first glance this book does seem uninviting. The real benefit of the family history is that they've been stable there and importantly, they've kept a record of it: letters, diaries, photographs and personal accounts; accounts of farming practices and routines.
This is not only about one family, but is also an excellent historical account of farming in New Zealand and some of its impacts.
Back to the Matthews family: they were obviously for many years in New Zealand still the elite of society. While the men no doubt worked very hard farming, expecting no more or less of their employees, life in the house was easier than for most farming folk. There were housemaids, cooks, nannies, governesses, gardeners. So big was the farm that it employed a full time butcher just to slaughter the stock for home consumption. While the Matthews family were instrumental in setting up a local school, their own children were tutored at home before being sent away to ‘proper' schools more befitting their status.
It seems, despite this elitism, that the Matthews employees were loyal and happy. The family was generous in the local community with their money, time and skills.
This is a beautifully written and presented book. The photographs are well reproduced and relevant, and the 161-year history is interesting and important, particularly to sheep farming in New Zealand.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to buy a copy.
Mihaia: The Prophet Rua Kenana and his Community at Maungapohatu
By Judith Binney, Gillian Chaplin and Craig Wallace (Bridget Williams Books, RRP $50)
Nga Morehu The Survivors: The Life Histories of Eight Maori Women
By Judith Binney and Gillian Chaplin (Bridget Williams Books, RRP $50)
Reviewed by David Luoni
These reprints bring two of the late Dame Judith Binney's influential histories to a new audience.
They are essential reading in light of the 2007 anti-terror raids and recent trial of the Urewera Four, and shed light on why armed police intervention so angered Tuhoe.
Mihaia is a biography of prophet Rua Kenana, whose messianic gospel promised self-determination and land retention. The Crown's response in 1916 was to invade Kenana's community at Maungapohatu and arrest him on minor charges. Tragically the police fatally shot his son and another follower during the raid.
The Crown then escalated matters by charging Kenana with sedition. After New Zealand's then-longest trial, he was acquitted of sedition but could not escape imprisonment on lesser charges. After his release Kenana returned to Maungapohatu but was unable to resurrect his Jerusalem.
Nga Morehu shares the life stories of eight Maori women who grew up in Ringatu communities following the teachings of prophet Te Kooti Arikirangi. Tuhoe support for Te Kooti also incited the Crown to invade the Ureweras in a series of armed raids.
This book was pioneering when first published in 1979 as it validated the subjectivity of oral histories and the richness of lived experience. The life stories span most of the 20th century and reward readers with insights that escape the net of more formal histories.
I Am Not Esther
By Fleur Beale (Random House, RRP $20)
Reviewed by Maree Field
You know when you're about 14 and you find a book that you read and read until it's finished?
I'm a few years past 14 now, but if I had picked up I Am Not Esther at that age, that would have been the book. It's still a cracking wee read.
Kirby is suddenly sent to live with relatives she has never met - relatives who belong to a closed, mysterious religious sect. Kirby's mother tells her that she's suddenly going to work with refugees in Africa, leaving Kirby alone and scared. She's well out of her depth in the large family of her cousins whose lives are completely controlled by their religion.
I Am Not Esther is relatively short, at less than 200 pages, and easy to finish in a single sitting. Kirby is a great central character - brave and outspoken, but still a very typical teenager, which can be frustrating, but lends an air of truth to Kirby's struggle for identity.
Once Upon a Cowpat: Stories from the Back Country
By Graham Hutchins (Exisle, RRP $25)
Reviewed by Rosemarie Smith
The is classic Kiwi yarn territory, inhabited by an engagingly diverse bunch of good jokers, saucy sheilas, bad buggers and bank managers, cantankerous animals and wonky farm machinery, all engaged in the perils and pleasures of rural life.
Hutchins draws on personal experience, an eye and ear for detail plus sharp antennae for the nuances of rural society, and affectionately laces his tales with wry humour.
The timescale is a bit flexible, as in the tale of the town versus country sports fixture (with all its social and sporting distinctions plus bovine interference in the outfield) where the dark-horse ring-in is described as looking like Cary Grant's brother, to a tale involving the Fart Tax and a tractor called Myrtle.
Good for a chuckle, especially on a wet weekend, or for the proverbial little house out the back, and although mainly set in North Island hill country, the action is or was applicable anywhere in rural New Zealand.
This could also be a good introduction for new New Zealanders (if their English is adequate) as an insight into how longer-term locals like to think of themselves.
Beautiful You - A New Zealand Woman's Guide to Looking Great
By Denyse Saunders (HarperCollins, RRP $40)
Reviewed by Collette Devlin
This easy-to-navigate book is basically an everyday instruction manual for women of all ages. Denyse Saunders shares the secrets of her illustrious career in the fashion, beauty and modelling world with women who want to make simple changes to feel good about themselves.
Denyse's message is clear: inner confidence is the key to a successful life - physically, emotionally and spiritually.
She guides the reader through the easy-to-follow chapters, which are dedicated to subjects that examine in detail all aspects of beauty and the body.
The book is packed with skincare, makeup and fashion hints and tips, as well as how to keep your body, mind and soul fit, healthy and youthful.
It's a book you will want to keep handy on a bookshelf as a reference.
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