Scoop Review of Books

Archive for January, 2015

Hard Candy

Opal Plumstead
by Jacqueline Wilson (Random House, $34.99)
Reviewed by Sophie Robinson

9780857531100-1-edition.default.original-1Do you like lollies? Opal Plumstead certainly did… until she was forced to work in a lolly factory. You see, Opal’s father wants to be an author. He writes a manuscript and sends it off to the publishers, who say they are interested in perhaps accepting his book. He thinks the publishers will say yes, and pay him lots of money, so he takes the family out to celebrate. They spend a lot of money celebrating … so when the publisher says ‘no’ to the manuscript, Opal’s father has a big pile of bills to somehow pay back. In desperation he steals from his employer to pay the outstanding bills, but gets caught out.

Opal then has to leave her posh school, and her scholarship, to work in the Fairy Glenn Sweet Factory, making fondant moulds. Opal’s older sister has an apprenticeship at a hat shop, and offers to leave to find a higher-paying job to support the family, but her mother won’t let her. So it’s all up to Opal. The story follows Opal as she grows into a young woman starting out in the world.

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‘Baby die, die baby’

Rough on Women: Abortion in 19th-Century New Zealand
by Margaret Sparrow (VUP, $40)
Reviewed by Nicola Whyte

Rough_On_Women‘Baby die, die baby.’

The words are 20-year-old Miss Annie Best’s, called out as she writhed deliriously on her bed in 1896. After days of intense pain, the young servant had finally lapsed into a coma due to a self-administered concoction of medicines and other poisonous home remedies. She died the same night, trying not to end her own life but that of her fetus.

The tale of Annie Best is just one of the many in Dr Margaret Sparrow’s book, Rough on Women: Abortion in 19th-century New Zealand. The book, compiled from coroners’ reports and newspaper articles, paints a picture of desperate times when women attempted to terminate unwanted pregnancies by taking rat poison or ground-up phosphorous match heads, or performed surgery on themselves using sharp implements. The results were often fatal.

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Inglorious Past

Prendergast: Legal Villain? by Grant Morris (VUP, $40)
Parihaka Invaded by Dick Scott (BWB Texts, e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

Prendergast_coverI have reviewed these two recently published books together as they share so much in common as regards subject matter, given that the latter is but a small extract from an earlier and far more significant book by Dick Scott, namely Ask That Mountain, originally published in 1975.

This commonality pertains to Parihaka and the – for all Māori at least – illegal invasion of this most civilised settlement in 1881; an invasion most desired by the then Minister of Native Affairs, John Bryce, and given legal sanction by Sir James Prendergast in his role of Acting Governor of Aotearoa-New Zealand. More, Wi Parata, MP, was also at Parihaka, some years after Parihaka_CoverPrendergast had declared Parata’s chances of reclaiming his Poneke whenua (Wellington land) impossible, because the Supreme Court did not recognise native title, thus inaugurating further repressive parliamentary Acts which further diminished Māori land holdings.

Grant Morris never sanctions Prendergast’s rather nefarious role in the entire Parihaka blot on our country’s history – as so well delineated in the brief BWB Text booklet – and he also makes it clear that Prendergast had no empathy whatsoever for Māori. Indeed, it all seems rather fortuitous in hindsight that Prendergast authorised the Parihaka invasion during the time then Governor Gordon was overseas in Fiji. In other words, for this reviewer, Prendergast was as culpable as Bryce for the unwarranted rape and pillage that took place there. Whether he was manipulative and deceitful at worst, or merely somewhat of a tool of similar-minded politicians, at best, remains for the reader to ultimately decide.

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Paul and Kanye: Stating the Obvious

By Graeme Tuckett

The internet gag ‘Who is Paul McCartney, and why is Kanye West collaborating with him?’ has made the news.

I thought it was kinda funny when I first read it, though I didn’t think it was anything other than a joke then, and I still don’t.

What isn’t so funny though, is the predictable but wearisome outpouring of anti-Kanye hogwash polluting the message boards in the last few days.
Now, musical taste is totally subjective, and unless I’ve had several pints and a lousy day, I wouldn’t ever tell you that my taste is in any way better than yours.

But it is instructive to at least acknowledge that in the last twenty years West has outsold McCartney by millions. If there genuinely are Kanye fans out there who don’t know, or need reminding who Paul McCartney is, then that’s pretty understandable. And if those fans are under thirty, and have been raised outside of the affluent middle-class in the United States of America, then knowing more about West than McCartney is exactly what you should expect. And really, exactly what has MCartney done to trouble the charts in the last few decades anyway? A collaboration with Michael Jackson, and another with Stevie Wonder? Gee, anyone see a pattern emerging here?

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