Book reviews: September 2014

By: Peta Stavelli


If you're heading off for some well-deserved R&R, there's no better time to grab a great read. Peta Stavelli reviews some of the latest offerings from New Zealand publishing houses.

Screw you Dolores

Sarah-Kate Lynch
Random House NZ, $30 Screw -you -dolores

I'll be honest – I didn't want to review this book. Great quality 'chick lit' has disappeared in the last few years: I couldn't stand being disappointed all over again. Happily though, Screw You Dolores by Sarah-Kate Lynch, is an amusing, shrewd, and cleverly-timed recount of 'The Year of Me'.

Lynch, with the 'big Five-Oh' on her doorstep, sets off to find the key to happiness – shoe shopping in Paris, eating too much cheese, living by herself, joining a laughing group in Mumbai – all the things supposed to bring contentment. With sharp wit she discovers her own secret to happiness and imparts a lot of relatable advice to readers along the way.

The pages are sprinkled with images, doodles, themed-backgrounds, and fun fonts to make this a light read. On a rainy day, this book is a cheery pick-me-up.

Rachel Middleton

On the Hoof

Ruth Entwistle Low
Penguin Group NZ, $45 On -the -hoof

In this book – the first of its kind – Ruth Entwistle Low interviews almost 60 old-time drovers, revealing and reliving the practice of droving and the people who have underpinned it.

Through original research, colourful storytelling and the voices of the drovers themselves, Ruth describes what the job entailed – where and how they travelled, the problems they faced, the ups and downs of the lifestyle.

On the Hoof is a truly special book – a heartland history of New Zealand that seeks not simply to explain the drover and the droving way of life, but to honour them also. Also available as an eBook.

No Front Line

Claire Hall
Penguin Group NZ, $45 No -front -Line

No Front Line: Inside Stories of New Zealand's Vietnam War explores this war like never before, taking readers behind the lines of New Zealand's longest and most controversial military engagement of the twentieth century.

It relays military, civilian and domestic histories in a narrative that is at once sincere, direct and undeniable – sometimes shocking and always absorbing.

Personal testimonies in No Front Line are drawn from a collection of 150 oral history interviews recorded over five years. They present a fresh perspective on New Zealand's collective experience of the Vietnam War – an episode in history that cannot be ignored.

The Extraordinary Journey of the fakir who got trapped in an IKEA wardrobe

Romain Puértolas
Random House NZ, $37 The -fakir

For readers of The One-Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, comes another book with a long title. This funny, charming, feel-good story about a fake fakir follows the professional con artist on his pilgrimage to IKEA.

As his journey progresses in the most unpredictable of ways, the fakir finds unlikely friends in even unlikelier places. To his surprise the stirrings of love well up in the heart of our hero, even as his adventures lead to profound and moving questions of the perils of emigration and the universal desire to seek a better life in an often dangerous world.

Gironimo

Tim Moore
Random House NZ, $40 Gironimo

Ever wondered what life was really like during The Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy? Twelve years after Moore toiled round the route of the Tour de France he takes on the notorious 1914 Giro d'Italia.

History's most appalling bike race was a lengthy ordeal of 400km stages, cataclysmic night storms and relentless sabotage – all on a diet of raw eggs and red wine. Of the 81 who rolled out of Milan, only eight made it back.

Committed to authenticity, Tim acquires the ruined husk of a gearless, wooden-wheeled 1914 road bike, a handful of maps and an alarming period outfit topped off with a pair of welding goggles. This is the funniest book I have ever read and one which should come with a warning: do not read in public places. Highly recommended.

Bittersweet

Colleen McCullough
Harper Collins NZ, $50 Bittersweet

From the author of The Thorn Birds – one of the biggest-selling books of all time – comes this epic saga of love, betrayal, ambition and redemption in 1920s Australia.

The four Latimer sisters, famous throughout New South Wales for their beauty, wit and ambition, have always been close; always happy. But then they left home to train as nurses, swapping the feather beds of their father's townhouse for the spartan bunks of hospital accommodation.

And now, as the Depression casts its shadow across Australia, they are bound by their own secret desires as the world changes around them. Will they find the independence they crave? Or is life – like love – always bittersweet?

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