From our reviewers: NZ non-fiction

03:00, Jul 09 2014

Ulva Island: A Visitor's Guide
By Ulva Goodwillie (Craig Print, RRP $39)

Reviewed by Jillian Allison-Aitken

There's no doubt we live in a beautiful part of the world, but even a born-and-bred Southlander like me can be taken aback at times by just how beautiful it is.

Drive for 20 minutes or so in any direction and you'll find yourself admiring anything from a rural landscape to a rugged cliff. However, if you go a little further off the beaten track, you'll be rewarded with some truly remarkable hidden treasures. And one of the finest is surely Ulva Island.

Tucked away inside Paterson Inlet, on Stewart Island, it is believed that Ulva was named by the early Scottish settlers after their namesake Isla of Ulva, in the Inner Hebrides.

Another Ulva has fallen in love with the island, founded Ulva's Guided Walks and now produced a stunning guide to the island.


Author Ulva Goodwillie is of Rakiura/ Stewart Island Maori heritage with the Scottish branch of her family arriving in New Zealand six generations ago. She has created a guide book that does justice to this beautiful, relatively untouched locale. Packed with photographs that are mainly the work of Gareth Eyres and Matt Jones - and a few by Goodwillie herself - the book is an incredible visual guide to the island, showing the flora and fauna in all their glory.

Each species of bird gets a two-page spread, with a rundown of information about habitats and habits sitting alongside the photographs.

There's also a section on the more practical information you'll be needing if you are planning a trip to the island: how to there, a location map, conservation etiquette, weather, walking tracks and the location of the loos. This is a bit like one of those fancy-schmancy cookbooks that we all have tucked away in our kitchen somewhere: fantastic for those who are going there, but still lovely to flick through and daydream about even if you haven't got travel plans any time soon.

Lazy Days: Painting the Kiwi Lifestyle
By Graham Young (New Holland Publishers, RRP $30)

Reviewed by Hayley Browne

English born artist Graham Young has put together a collection of his kiwi lifestyle works which is just fine. Nice. Pleasant. Any of the adjectives you can use to sum up something so inoffensive that doesn't quite cross into being considered negative.

Young's showcase of a somewhat redundant skill idealises the dream of the Kiwi lifestyle and quintessential summer batch holiday. This is fine, and while it does have its own quirky charm, more truth and reality of the lifestyle could have been captured with a camera.

This collection does nothing more than provide a coffee book table of nostalgic memories. Nothing has been investigated, pushed, questioned or exposed in these images. It merely seems as if he has gone to an awful lot of effort to create a view of something so identical to an idealised form that a photograph would have done exactly the same job, with a lot more honesty.

On each page Young has commented with the context or his experience of the image, explaining why he found it interesting.

This does make the book more relatable and relevant

However, in his introduction he criticises shopping malls for being "homogenised, identical spaces", yet as each of his paintings are the same colour palette, style and depiction, they, too reverberate a homogenised aesthetic.

While this would be a lovely book to flick through at the batch during the height of a summer holiday to remember with nostalgia the magic of a carefree summer holiday as a child, the reality depicted is the idealised, quintessential kiwi summer of days past.

Unpacking the Kists: The Scots in New Zealand
By Brad Patterson, Tom Brooking and Jim McAloon (Otago University Press, RRP $70)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

This is an informative study of the nature and effect of Scottish migration to New Zealand.

It covers myriad topics including where in Scotland the settlers came from and their distribution patterns in New Zealand, how Scottish settlers have influenced the physical landscape and the society that was to become New Zealand, in particular the cultural and sporting traditions that they brought and developed. There is also a comparative study on what Scottish migration to other parts of the world was like.

This book is the product of a collaboration of scholars from different universities and it is first and foremost an academic work. Seemingly, this has been the first concerted study of the subject. It does seem dry in parts but the anecdotes used to illustrate examples of behaviour or social norms could fill a book by themselves. You just need to look in the phonebook or at some of the rural road names which show the Scottish heritage in this part of the country to know that this book will find an interested audience.

It has an engaging written style and adds to the knowledge of New Zealand's development. Alas, for many readers the small print may be a problem.

By the by, kists were the wooden trunks that were de rigeur for any self respecting Scottish migrant - filled with all the things people would need in the New World.