Born on a small island in Scotland to a local girl and an Australian serviceman, Maris O’Rourke was raised in a working class, dysfunctional, often violent household, around the UK and Europe. She went on to become the secretary for education for New Zealand, the director of education at the World Bank, an international education consultant, and an author.
Her memoir Zigzags and Leapfrogs introduces the reader to her first grandchild and the excitement of being called Nan in the opening chapter, before taking a step back to Scotland and delving into her early years.
At aged nineteen Maris obtained a passport and set off to see the world, beginning with Canada, then Hawaii, and on to New Zealand, where she met her husband Philip.
Settling in the North Island the couple became involved in skiing on Mount Ruapehu and even after her children arrived, Maris spent many hours with them in the snow, as well as continuing to study and work.
The inclusion of poems, photographs, short stories and paper cuttings together with vignettes of her life make this a fascinating read as we come to understand how O’Rourke juggled her personal life with professional responsibilities.
In 2008 Maris attended a poetry course and introduced herself to the group saying, “Each year I like to do something completely different, something challenging, something risky that gives me what I call a frisson of fear….. I’m a complete novice about poetry- so I’m here to learn.”
These thoughts are reflected throughout her memoir and I gained the impression O’Rourke has had a life well filled and well lived. She has skillfully written of her joys and disappointments but through this inspiring read, her determination and ambition shine through as she juggles motherhood, high powered jobs, as well as continually re-educating herself.
It is a good read, flows well and her humour helps to lighten some of the darker patches in her life, so this book is a great example how perseverance brings success and would be of value to people at all stages of their life .
Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh
Zigzags and Leapfrogs
by Maris O’Rourke
David Ling Publishing