By the Green of the Spring – book review

By the Green of the Spring, by Paddy Richardson

A much anticipated sequel to Through the Lonesome Dark, By the Green of the Spring takes our three young people: Otto, Clem and Pansy on with the lives that hung in a troubling denouement at the end of the first book. There is also Lena, Pansy’s daughter, who takes up the story of her parents’ lives through a child’s eyes.

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Landed – book review

Landed, by Sue McCauley

I went to the launch of Landed. I took a couple of friends to the Dannevirke Library at 6pm last Friday and the place was heaving. Sue McCauley has a strong local fan base and she can count me in. It felt like the whole town was there and they were all buying her book. Made my heart sing. And then Sue took the chair (kind of perched, she’s little), and entertained us. The microphone was unnecessary, she has a good story-telling voice and she told us some anecdotes, gave out thanks, made some self-deprecating jokes and read from her book. She sort of tried to put us off buying the book, saying there’s no real story, it doesn’t follow proper book rules in terms of structure. Nothing happens. Course she didn’t put anyone off.

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Grand – book review

Grand, becoming my mother’s daughter by Noelle McCarthy

Memoirs are so deeply personal they make me terrified. I can’t imagine ever wanting to write one. Now I know so much about Noelle McCarthy she’s no longer just that engaging, Irish voice on the radio. We’re so much closer than that. Things got personal very fast. I feel I’ve seen her naked. Why do people do this?

Saying that, it’s terrific for a reader. Who doesn’t want to wander through someone else’s thoughts for a while? Especially someone this smart and interesting. We can access their memories, become a voyeur of their lives. Judge them. A memoir is very different to a story (fact or fiction) told about someone else; psychologically a totally different thing. Noelle (usually I refer to an author by surname, but we’re intimates) tells us how she sees herself, with access to all that interior landscape. OK, so the book is ostensibly about her mother, but it’s about her. Noelle McCarthy. What a great woman.

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The Summer Book – book review

The Summer book, by Tove Jansson

My friend Anne from Sweden has arrived. Last time she came to stay she brought Moomin coffee mugs. Her husband sent me an Atlas of Remote Islands and put a gnome in the garden (the gnome disappeared, but there’s been no postcard). This time Anne brought The Summer Book. Gifts tell you a lot about the people who give them. I love the Swedes.

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Mrs Jewell cast reincarnated

They’ve come back as keas

Members of the crew of wrecked General Grant have been reincarnated as kea. I can’t begin to explain how happy this makes me.

Sanguily The Cuban‘ has just been spotted near Jordan Stream, Mid South Island, exhibiting such behaviour as: Feeding on berries, flying, playing. Came and went for about 2 hours. It’s him, for sure.

This is the work of my friend Lulu Jordan, who eats adventure for breakfast, and in January took part in a project tagging keas, earning naming rights. She took the characters from my novel, Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant, matched them with a bird, and released them into the wild. She manages to squeeze such interesting work in between hunting tar in the mountains and 23 days rafting the Grand Canyon. Lulu is one of the coolest people I know.

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Poor People with Money–book review

Poor People with Money, by Dominic Hoey

I really wanted not to like this book. The too-cool-for-school, attention seeking badass author didn’t sound promising, with his snarly comments about moving to Detroit or LA (wooo) because he’s been left out of the NZ lit club. He has a lovely line in his poetry where he is:
…condescended to by people
who have never been punched in the fac
which is a brilliant way to categorise people, but a $40k grant? Just saying. When he didn’t make the longlist for the Ockhams this year he said ‘Man there’s dogs they would give that award to over me!’ Thanks. (I’m on the shortlist). What a charmer.

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The Lighthouse – book review

The Lighthouse, by Christopher Parker

A book that seems well promoted in social media at the moment, The Lighthouse offers good engagement to keep the pages turning. It did have more of a Young Adult feeling than a grown-up read for me, with spooky but gentle ghosts, a sad but not gruesome mystery, young protagonists and a (pretty chaste) doe-eyed romance.

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Iris and Me – book review

Iris and Me, by Philippa Werry

This is a terrific story about a tenacious woman who, in the 1930s, leaves New Zealand with no support and very little cash and reports on a war in China. It’s intelligent young adult fiction (though I don’t qualify as either and I loved it). Despite speaking no Chinese language, having no official capacity, being slightly lame and needing a walking stick, Iris gets right to the front-line and writes on the conditions she finds there. This is Iris Wilkinson, pen name Robin Hyde, who was a New Zealand poet, journalist and novelist. I knew her from her books; I read The Godwits Fly recently, but I had no idea she was such an audacious traveller as well.

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Getting Lost – book review

Getting Lost, by Annie Ernaux

This is a book about a woman’s sexual passion. That’s it, really. A French woman’s love affair with a married Russian diplomat lasts for 240 pages on the theme of will he? won’t he? oh! he’s here, and he will!

This is Ernaux’s diary for 1989, when, nearing fifty, divorced with adult sons, she hooks up again with the younger ‘S’. She’s an important and famous writer and she’d met him on a trip to Leningrad and their one night stand had been perfect: sex that set the bar for everything that is to come after, when the Russian is posted to Paris.

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Running slips

and planting natives

Five weeks without access to the Hawkes Bay reserves has been nothing compared to the anguish suffered by so many after the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle. So, we couldn’t run the hills for a few weeks. Not a big deal, in the scheme of things. Now the trails are mostly open again and frankly, I’m surprised at the speed of this considering the resources required – those same resources of machinery and planning and humans that are in such demand everywhere. Men with diggers, once again, I salute you.

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