The relationship between New Zealand and Australia, is like that in an extended family. While we love and support each other because we share so many things, we also pick at the differences, accentuate and ridicule them. It is a classic love-hate relationship.
In this BWB text, Stephanie Johnson explores at a more personal level her own experiences. As a writer, a wife and a mother, she shares her own journey and the way her crossing the ditch has influenced her writing and her feelings.
Johnson’s family have lived in New Zealand since the 1840s but she has lived in Australia as an adult, married an Australian and is often described as an Australian writer. She introduces the reader to other Kiwis who made the move, many never to return. However, she also points out that while they physically resided in Australia, they regarded New Zealand as home.
Johnson explores race relations, migrants, women’s rights, artistic freedom and the weather. But this is really a personal view because the telling is centred around the tour her musician son makes with his Mum as a roadie. This allows her to reflect on the places and people she meets, on their reaction to her son and his music and her own reflection on similarities and differences in the two nations.
I enjoyed the honesty of her writing. Her research added an historical element and the timing of the book is right. We are only now brave enough to look at our bigger, richer, stronger neighbour and ask if we are the same or we are different. I can see some robust discussion in a book group arising from this slim volume.
Reviewed by Kathy Watson
Playing for Both Sides: Love across the Tasman
by Stephanie Johnson
Published by Bridget Williams Books