Book reviews: August 2015

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.

The Dust That Falls From Dreams Books Aug1

Louis de Bernières
Penguin Random House, $38

The name may be familiar. Louis de Bernières is of course the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the enduring classic that went on to be made into a film of the same name. For this reason I was eager to read this novel, the first from the author in a decade.

As with Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, the theme is displacement during wartime, and the effects of loss and separation. As it closely follows the family and friends of the McCosh family from the expectant early optimism of the Edwardian era until the post-war period, de Bernières paints vivid portraits of people whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the horrors of war.

At the book’s centre is beautiful Rosie, loved by all the neighbourhood boys. Then there are her sisters, each delightful and eccentric in their own way. All are drawn to help with the war effort against the wishes of their mother, formally a suffragette, but subdued in her quest to attain freedom.

Of the more delightful characters are war hero and flying ace, Daniel, and Mr McCosh, ever the entrepreneur. A romping read.

The Good Doctor Books Aug2

Lance O’Sullivan
Penguin, $38

Dr Lance Sullivan may need little introduction. He’s a Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, public health champion, Maori of the Year, and a former Sir Peter Blake Emerging Leader award recipient.

Yet few would know that behind the scenes this champion of radical social changes was a violent alcoholic father, and was expelled from two schools. After graduating from Hato Petera College, and with the help of a mentor programme, Sullivan enrolled in Auckland University’s School of Medicine.

He struggled to continue, constantly fighting against his lack of self-belief. At the time, he was convicted in the widespread belief that you couldn’t be Maori and successful. By the time he graduated, O’Sullivan was a father to four of his eventual seven children. His wife and mother were his greatest supporters.

From graduation, he has been motivated by a desire to give back to his community. He has already given a great deal, but going on past achievements of O’Sullivan, a great deal more may be expected.

Wheat Belly cookbook(s) Books Aug3

William Davis MD
Harper Collins NZ, $40

Following on from the ground-breaking Wheat Belly book which introduced international readers to the compelling reasons a wheat-free lifestyle dramatically improves health and provides relief from chronic illness, come the cookbooks.

The Wheat Belly Cookbook and Wheat Belly 30-minute Cookbook provide background information about the programme and the changes you can expect, plus each contains true life stories, pantry suggestions, basic recipes and daily recipes to help smooth your way to life beyond wheat.

There are some great ideas which I imagine for some readers – particularly the sweet-toothed among you – will provide welcome suggestions to lose wheat and keep the old habits. It is very American and plays to those whose lives may very well be ruined without their childhood staples.

But not me. I gave up a month ago, sleep better than I have for years, and am at last free of two other long-term irritations. I have embraced the wheat-free lifestyle completely. And yearn not all for a flapjack.

Face To Face Books Aug4

Paul Moon with photographs by Jane Ussher
Penguin, $50

What a collaboration of the elite. Dr Paul Moon is of course the acclaimed historian who has brought us such incredible works as New Zealand in the Twentieth Century, and Encounters: The Creation of New Zealand. If you have not read them, each comes with my highest recommendations.

Jane Ussher (OBE) is one of the country’s foremost photographers. She previously collaborated on award-winning Coast, A New Zealand Journey, and brought us Still Life, the breath-taking photographic essay on Scott and Shackleton’s historic huts in the Antarctic.

Face To Face comprises candid conversations with remarkable New Zealanders, including Tim Finn, Dame Alison Holst, Sir Richard Hadlee, Sir Miles Warren, Sir Lloyd Geering and Mai Chen. Through their outstanding achievements we can glean a better understanding of our tiny island nation.

The Pasta Book Books Aug5

Gennaro Contaldo
Penguin, $20

You’ll note the name: The Pasta Book. Let me explain. Gennaro Contaldo is Jamie Oliver’s mentor and best friend. They have cooked together for more than 20 years since Jamie moved to London and Contaldo became his first boss, teaching the young chef how to cook Italian food in a truly authentic way.

Gennaro has become one of the most charismatic presenters on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube. The book is a spin-off of that series, taking the reader from the basics of pasta cookery through the creation of the most sought-after pasta dishes. In true Italian style, the 50 easy recipes are divided seasonally so you can make the most of fresh produce.

Comfort Food Books Aug6

Simon and Dame Alison Holst
Hyndman Publishing, $15

Gotta love a dame! The sad news that Dame Alison Holst is suffering dementia and has retired after a career spanning more than 50 years, is offset by the 20-year collaboration with her son Simon.

The nation’s favourite cook has published around 100 cookbooks celebrating everyday cooking. In the latest of the Everyday Easy series, her tried-and-true recipes for simple soups, stews and casseroles will be applauded by a new generation of cooks, many of whom will now realise where their parents gleaned their inspiration from. Inside the compact format cookbook are classics like pumpkin soup, macaroni cheese, 30-minute bolognese, bacon and egg pie, corn fritters, beef Madras and lemon-garlic chicken dinner.

My mouth is already watering at the thought of whipping up a batch of beef Madras this weekend.

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