Book Review: Exits and Entrances, by Barry Southam

Available in selected bookshops.

cv_exits_and_entrancesExits and Entrances is a collection of both prose and poetry that describes characters at different points of their lives. Some of these figures are closer to the edge of certain exits and entrances, while others watch these borders being crossed in front of them.

Southam’s poetry is short and sweet, describing images that hint at lives beyond what can be seen. The poem Footpath Conundrum describes a torn photo as a ‘quartet of colour’. Lost without an owner, the photo is a fracture that ‘remains unanswered’; even the smallest things like a photo on the footpath carry their own resonances. His poetry also hints at change that is yet to occur; the poem Artist’s Studio is a piece that works in this way. It describes paint as’lifeblood’ for an unnamed character that works in the studio. These splashes of colour will soon become part of another canvas that is yet to be mounted, and therefore another piece of art. Without even describing the artist himself, a rich landscape is instead formed through the setting.

Southam’s pieces of prose also broke up the poetry nicely. Made In Heaven describes a rushed marriage through a cheeky main character who suggests, ‘If war breaks out, I’m going to maintain the Switzerland position,’ when drama seems imminent. Playing upon the setting of a wedding gone wrong, Southam brings just the right amount of absurdity to explore the complexity of human emotions that lead to such decisions. Sunday Crossroads is another piece of prose that looks at human nature, this time in the setting of a bush walk; it explores the tugs between pride and fear, the unknown and the safety of home. It is only the good sense of one of the figures that gets the characters out of the bush before it gets too dark. Needing to be reassured but unable to find it in the people around him, another character repeats “We’re okay now… We’re okay now” to himself like a mantra.

However, many of these prose characters fell flat, especially against the richness of the poetic language that surrounded it. A few of the stories were told through the perspective of characters who were passive figures that observed others undergoing change, rather than actively changing themselves. For this reason, I found myself wanting to know more about characters that weren’t focalised through the narrative, causing the actual main characters pale in comparison.

Nevertheless, Southam ends the collection sweetly with a section titled Two Memoirs. The poem Walking With Jim is a casual conversation that portrays the easiness between two characters while they mull over their history. Meanwhile, the poem Another Town, Another Time focuses on change in relation to place, describing the small town of Kawhia, before inevitably moving on to bigger cities.

The final poem, On Daffodil Day, is a pensive piece that describes a man in a hospital cancer department, surrounded by “terminal decisions”. In this way, the collection ends on an exit, but the former poems reflecting on change makes it clear that there were many entrances and exits along the way that lead to this final departure.

Reviewed by Emma Shi

Exits and Entrances
by Barry Southam
Published by Copy Press
ISBN 9780994129598

Book Review: Julie & Kishore, by Carol Jackson

Available in selected bookstores nationwide. 
cv_julie_and_kishore
Carol Jackson is a New Zealander married to an Indian man. They have been together over twenty years. This books is fiction but is loosely based on her own life.

Julie, like all young Kiwi girls dreams of meeting Mr Right and living the dream, but finding this man seems elusive. Working firstly as a veterinary nurse then changing careers to work at OSW (Office Supply Warehouse), Julie’s job entailed visiting companies to discuss their office supply needs. One of these companies’ was an accountant’s – McAllister and Co. There she caught the attention of a young Indian man, Kishore who had been in New Zealand for two years. The two of them became friends and then of course, like in all good love stories, this love developed, with Kishore eventually asking Julie to marry him. Julie’s friends and family at first were worried for her, but after meeting Kishore they all realised he was perfect for her. Julie’s parents gave them their blessing.

Kishore’s family in India wanted to meet Julie, so it was duly arranged for them both to travel to India. On arriving there, Julie was welcomed into the family. Kishore’s mother and father put the suggestion to them both that perhaps they marry in India.

This is a great read. Many of us don’t know a lot about Indian culture but with the growing cosmopolitan population of New Zealand, inter-marriage between races isn’t that unusual. In the 1980’s, of course, this was very unusual.

Carol Jackson has written another book in this series Julie & Kishore – Take Two. This will be released shortly. She is currently writing a third book, Nina’s Art, which involves many of the same characters, but is a different story.

I look forward to reading more of Julie & Kishore’s life.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Julie & Kishore
by Carol Jackson
Published by Libertine Press
ISBN  9780692262313

Book Review: Maungawhau – A Short History of Volunteer Action, by Friends of Maungawhau

Available in local bookshops within the Maungawhau area.cv_friends_of_maungawhau 

Friends of Maungawhau (FoM) has been in existence since the 1980’s as an informal group of local residents. It began as a sub-committee of the Mt Eden planning group. Under Sue Bulmer’s leadership, the FoM was formed. She built a close relationship with various people including Ngati Whatua heritage advisor Ngarimu Blain and historian Pita Turei. FoM was incorporated in 2002. This book is a history of the work of this group, and more broadly, a history of the industrial background of the region.

FoM’s objectives are to preserve and protect the natural and cultural character of Maungawhau and to defend it against harm and unsustainable use. FoM’s focus is on practical volunteer action and care for the natural environment and advocacy for co-ordinated management.

Maungawhau was once the site of a large terraced Pa, one of the three largest in Tamaki
Makaurau. From the 1840’s onwards, Maungawhau  was used by settlers for grazing of cattle, horses, goats, pigs and geese. In 1930 this ceased, following grass fires during the long hot summers, but it was to resume in the 1940’s. This was seen as a way to control vegetation. From the 1960’s Bob Linton leased land on Maungawhau; with his son taking over the leases in 1995. They grazed Hereford-Friesian crossbred calves for a year, removing them at eighteen months of age. Concerns were beginning to surface over the impact of the cattle on archaeological features. Also weed control was becoming a major problem with erosion after spraying.

In earlier years at least five pits were quarried on the flanks of Maungawhau – something I am familiar with from my own family history. Erosion is now a huge problem in all areas.

Invasive plants have also been a major issue, because early plantings of areas of Maungawhau included plants that are now considered noxious weeds. Native planting was done intermittently. Of more recent times, public planting days were held.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s a few keen people largely working independently began to take practical steps to show what could be done with sustained effort. Experiments were carried out with different species with some successes with canopy and understory planting. 2000 – 2006 Kit Howden supervised public planting days and regular volunteer weeding sessions.

Throughout New Zealand, groups such as the FoM, are maintaining areas such as this, in a state that all can enjoy. The amount of work that groups such as the FoM do is phenomenal.

This is a very detailed book which also outlines FoM working closely with Council and Iwi to define strategies and solutions to the problems of the area. This has resulted in some successes, but it is evident that considerable work needs to be completed to achieve the FoM’s objectives.

This book was a real eye opener to me – the dedication by this particular group is astounding and because of this and other similar groups archaeological and historic sites all over New Zealand are being preserved.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Maungawhau – A Short History of Volunteer Action
Written and published by the Friends of Maungawhau (Mt Eden)
ISBN 9780473298470

Book Review: Doodle Bug – written and illustrated by Bruce Potter

Available at selected bookstores nationwide.cv_doodle_bug

The author, Bruce Potter is a musician and composer of both adult and children’s songs. He also tours schools with his shows. He is also an illustrator and author.

This is a very unusual book. We’ve all doodled at some point in our lives, but I can honestly say I have never in my life managed to produce doodles that are in this book. The idea behind it is to foster children’s and adults imaginations, and it does this very cleverly.

Doodle Bug is a green frog dressed in orange overalls. The illustrations on the first few pages show a frog, a mug of tea/coffee and a biscuit and then a hand holding a ball point pen. The fun then starts with the pen and hand doodling – some incredible doodles. Doodle Bug dives into the swimming pool that Bruce has doodled. .

“Doodle Bug was walking through the doodles one day.
He saw a scary dragon and tried to hide away.
We’ve all got to find him.
Oh where can he be?
Where’s little Doodle Bug?

The small person I was reading this to spent a lot of minutes with me trying to find Doodle Bug. Abby’s Pa was a lot cleverer than Grandma or Abby – he found it in quick smart time. When Abby and I found him, we thought – oh yes, of course.

The illustrations are quite stunning. While I think Abby at 3 years of age is a tad young to really appreciate this book, I know of children in our family over 4 years of age that really would love it.

Well done Bruce Potter. To inspire and encourage children with their imagination is quite a tall order, but I think you have “cracked it”.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Doodle Bug
by Bruce Potter
Published by Draconis Books
ISBN 9780473281137

Book Review: Millennium – A memoir, by Peri Hoskins

cv_millenniumAvailable online and via selected bookstores. 

Peri Hoskins is a NZ author who lives in Northland, where he works as a barrister-at-law.

In 1999 with the new millennium nearly upon us, Tonga is to be the first in the world to see the new age in by putting its clock forwards an hour or maybe two − a clever ploy to pull in the tourists. Vince Osborne (the narrator of this story), barrister, living in Adelaide travels by Royal Tongan Airlines to Tonga to spend time with his primary school mate Sykes. They had last seen each other in 1994 in their old home town. Sykes has since left to move to Tonga and has bought an old run-down backpackers lodge, catering to young travellers. Beyond the backpackers, Sykes other interest is seeing how many birds he can “pull”. He has plenty of choice, with cruise ships visiting, young bored Tongan girls, and young tourists breaking their OE’s with a break in Tonga.

This is Vince’s first journey since breaking up with his long-time girlfriend Angelina, leaving his job at a big law firm, and starting out on his own. He steps off the plane with a generous supply of alcohol and cigars from duty free – champagne, brandy, whiskey, red wine and, of course, cigars.

Millennium is a journey though many human exchanges – quirky, funny and sad –accompanied by quotes from Hindu scripture.

According to the author’s notes, this is a work of creative non-fiction. In essence it is true, but contains fictional elements. The characters are of his own creation, often containing elements of several people. Also locations and names of people or businesses have been changed. I almost expected to see in writing “nobody was hurt or killed in the making or writing of this story”. I daresay friends of the author will recognise themselves in these characterisations.

I was really surprised how much I enjoyed reading this rather thin book – one of the smallest I’ve read for a while. The descriptions of some of the characters are rather brutal at times and I sometimes wondered how Peri managed to keep a straight face and fingers (typing) while writing this story. I loved the quotes from Hindu scripture – they seemed rather appropriate and pertained to the particular subject of the chapter they headed.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Millennium – A Memoir
by Peri Hoskins
Published by Tane Kaha Publications
ISBN 9780473251314

Book Review: Shades of Purple, by Ross Wilson

cv_shades_of_purpleBefore we even start reviewing the book I need to assure readers that this is not along the same lines as Fifty Shades of Grey. I know I breathed a sigh of relief. I wouldn’t have wanted to review that one!!

John Davies, a news journalist working in the U.K. returns to Auckland, N.Z in 1985. On landing at the airport and picking up a local newspaper John learns that one of the Goulden girls has been murdered. She is the second of three daughters of Sir Paul Goulden and the wife of Martin Hallett. Her body was found near the workbench in her potters’ studio attached to her home in St Heliers, Auckland. John’s father was the local GP and so grew up knowing the Goulden children well. There was also a son Alec, who had died in a car crash some years earlier.

John Davies had previously been a crime reporter for the New Zealand Herald and so knew a number of people in the Police force. Some he could claim as friends. Jim Wilson was one such friend. John’s friendship with the Goulden family and with Jim was instrumental in Sir Paul suggesting that John act for the family in finding out as much as he could to help catch Liz’s murderer.

The Goulden family were amongst elite in Auckland society, so photos and society gossip columns were weekly fodder for the public at large.

Liz Hallett is the third murder victim and is believed to be linked to the other two. How, nobody initially knows, but as the story unfolds family secrets tumble out and more fingers are pointed at members of the family.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book with the ending coming as a complete surprise. I am a big reader of thrillers and thought this one matched any others from various authors I have
read over the years.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Shades of Purple
by Ross Wilson
Self-published through Ebookit.com
ISBN 9781456621162

Book available from author Paperback from author at r.wilson.812@gmail.com, $15NZ