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Archive for March, 2014

What is real?

Thorndon – Wellington and Home: My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kirsty Gunn (Bridget Williams Books, $14.99 PB, $4.99 e-book)
Review by Pip Adam

Thordon“What is real, for a writer? What is the lived, the imagined? The light, the dark? Is it that the remembered may be deemed more powerful than the dreamed? The sadness, going down into the depths more grounded, more true, than the procession up into the bright world of stories and plans and wonder? To what extent, instead, like Milton’s sun ‘dark with excessive bright’, might the world of one also be the world of another, sun and moon together in continual eclipse and radiance, day and night at play together in the imagination in writing, in stories.” That’s Kirsty Gunn writing in Thorndon – Wellington and Home: My Katherine Mansfield Project.
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A slice of missionary life

Kerikeri Mission and Kororipo Pa: An Entwined History by Angela Middleton (Otago University Press, $29.95)
Review by Judith Nathan

keriekeriWith 2014 being the bicentennial of the arrival of the first missionaries in New Zealand, this booklet about the oldest surviving mission station at Kerikeri, and the adjacent kainga and pa at Kororipo, is very timely.

As mentioned in the title, this account emphasises the extent to which the two communities were interlinked, at a location chosen by Samuel Marsden in 1819 on the advice of Hongi Hika. Here the missionaries were dependent on their Maori patrons for survival, and the Maori reaped the benefits of life alongside the Europeans.
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The battle for nuclear sanity

Peace, Power and Politics: How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free by Maire Leadbeater (Otago University Press, $55)
Review by Cameron Walker

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In 1992 Elsie Locke, the mother of Maire Leadbeater, published Peace People: A History of Peace Activities in New Zealand. Peace People charted anti-war and peace activism in New Zealand from the Nineteenth Century Land Wars through to 1975. Peace, Power and Politics continues the history of these movements through to the year 2000.
Through her involvement in the campaigns for nuclear disarmament, East Timorese independence and more recently human rights in West Papua, Leadbeater has developed a reputation as an astute researcher. These skills are well applied in this book.
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The new anti-hero

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney (Puffin Books, $17.99)
Review by Ruth Brassington

wimypidIs the Wimpy Kid the most famous anti-hero of our children’s day? What happened to Superman/Clark Kent?

Neither comics nor novels, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books – this is the eighth – is a series lovingly created by self-confessedly failed newspaper cartoonist Jeff Kinney.

Perhaps because it was launched on my birthday in November, someone thought Hard Luck an appropriate present for me. Maybe being another year older was thought to be hard luck, but, as wimpy kid Greg Haffley says, just ask the Magic 8 Ball if you’re not sure of the answer. This useful fortune-telling device accompanies Greg through thick and thin – mainly thin, being Greg – as he tries to keep and make friends in middle school, answer test questions and walks to and from school dealing with problems all the way.
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Without a trace

ANDRIS – Where Are You? by Ron Crosby (Craig Potton Publishing, $40)
Review by Simon Nathan

Apse001A few years ago I attended an international science conference in Lithuania, one of the recently independent Baltic republics, immediately west of Russia. We went on a field trip through Latvia, but none of the Russian delegates were able to come because it was virtually impossible for them to obtain visas. This personal account of the disruption and agonies undergone by the Apse family helps to explain why Russians are not welcome in Latvia.

Andris Apse is one of New Zealand’s best known landscape photographers. He was born in Latvia while the country was in the midst of the turmoils of World War 2 – firstly invasion by the German army (into which Andris’ father, Voldemars, was conscripted), then occupation by the Russians. His mother, Kamilla, and baby Andris had to flee to a refugee camp in west Germany, and eventually emigrated to New Zealand. His father had disappeared without a trace – they believed that he had died in the conflict or in a Soviet prison camp. Andris grew up as a Kiwi, and developed his career as a photographer. Forty years after arriving in New Zealand, he and his mother discovered that Voldemars was still alive in Latvia.
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