Reviews

19 Nov 2019

Caroline: Little House Revisited by Sarah Miller

Readers of the Little House books will remember Caroline Ingalls as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Ma. Stoic, hard working, firm but fair, Ma anchored the family while her husband moved them from place to place across the American west in the latter years of the 19th century. In Caroline, we discover the woman Ma really was; beset by anxiety about her family, their safety and their future, a strong defender and carer of her children and a loving, devoted wife, even in the worst of times.

19 Nov 2019

Auē by Becky Manawatu

Auē! - a cry of distress - calling out throughout this extraordinary novel of fear and violence, of families torn apart and people trying to find connection and safety.

13 Nov 2019

The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de Waal

Where do our best impulses come from? Empathy, cooperation, compassion? Do they arise from the rational application of divine instructions or moral codes, or are they part of our animal heritage? In The bonobo and the atheist, de Waal continues his defence of the latter view: “Rather than having developed morality from scratch through rational reflection, we received a huge push in the rear from our background as social animals.”

13 Nov 2019

The Burning River by Lawrence Patchett

The burning river is a great piece of dystopian fiction, set in an Aotearoa that has been devastated by global warming and pollution. Van, Hana and her daughter Kahu set out on a quest to try and bargain for place of safety, a “place to shelter and then stand.”

13 Nov 2019

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

When a new Ann Patchett novel appears on the shelf, we wonder if it will be a suspenseful read like her earlier works Bel Canto or the Amazonian tale State of Wonder or if it will follow the same lines carved by the more recent Commonwealth – a deep dive into the relationships we have. This isn’t to say that Pratchett’s writing casts too wide a net. Her latest novel, The Dutch House, more likely suggests a narrowing in, a refining of her unique and beautiful approach to characterisation.

13 Nov 2019

The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox

Taryn Cornick is a lover of libraries, a valuer of ‘just in case knowledge’, and an observer: “She was always studying the world, not rapt or curious, but patient and dutiful, as if the world was something she’d paid good money to see.” Taryn meets a man with whom she enters into an agreement – to avenge the death of her sister, Beatrice. And Taryn’s world will never be the same again.

13 Nov 2019

One for Another by Andrea Jacka

One for another is a classic Western set in Idaho in the 1880s.  It is full of great characters, balances colonial racism with the recognition of indigenous wisdom and is also a cracker of a murder mystery.  The novel introduces Hennessey Reed, a woman who runs the local bar and brothel, who has an alcohol and drug problem, who is a ‘sensitive’ and who has a stubborn streak a mile wide.

13 Nov 2019

Almost human by Alfred Fidjestøl

Almost human is the biography of Julius, a chimpanzee who was born on Boxing Day 1979 in the Kristiansand Zoo, Norway, and who is now the alpha male of the zoo’s chimpanzee community. He was born to Sanne, similarly born in captivity and with no idea how to be a mother, so Julius was taken from the other chimps to save his life.

12 Nov 2019

When it All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins

What a delightful book. Jenny’s neighbour Andrew seeks her out to tell her he has found her husband in bed with his wife – the rest of the book deals with the fall out of this infidelity. It is an entertaining read, which considers why we make life choices, and how to stay above the morass of insecurity that often bubbles beneath us.