A big, interesting history

JILLIAN ALLISON-AITKEN
Last updated 15:13 15/12/2013

BOOK REVIEW: Illustrated History of New Zealand
By Matthew Wright; illustrations fom the Alexander Turnbull Library (Bateman Publishing, RRP $50)

It could be said that it's something of a surprise that a book on the history of a country as small and as young as New Zealand could be so huge.

At close to 500 pages and in an A4-size format, the Illustrated History of New Zealand is a massive tome that would take up a good chunk of space on your bookshelf if you felt inclined to put it there. However, it's such a fascinating read it's more likely to take up residence on your coffee table so you can dip into it regularly.

Historian Matthew Wright has done a sterling job of pulling together 600 illustrations - paintings and photographs - that tell the story of our country.

Wright was the perfect choice for this project, being one of New Zealand's most published historians. He has penned more than 50 books on everything from travel guides to engineering, and military and social history.

This man knows his stuff and, even more importantly, he knows how to make that stuff he knows about interesting for the rest of us.

This is the second edition of what was originally published as the Reed Illustrated History of New Zealand, and has been revised and in places completely reworked.

Wright's rewritten text fits perfectly with the freshly tweaked selection of images and tells the story of our sometimes turbulent but always interesting past, from the arrival of Polynesians, discovery by Europe, wars, pavlova, rugby, protests and everything in between.

This book is that rare combination of educational and interesting, and at $50 for such a comprehensive history it is pretty good value.

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