Book reviews: October 2019

By: Claire Smith


MCD editor Claire Smith takes a look at some of the latest titles to hit the bookshelves this month

Scented

Laurence Fearnley

Penguin

RRP $38

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Sian is a university lecturer in American studies. When she unexpectedly loses her job, she struggles with a sense of losing her identity.

In an attempt to find herself again, Sian begins to create a ‘signature scent’ – a perfume that captures her life story. Sian maps out her memories through scent in her quest, and note-byperfume-note, she begins to rebuild herself.

Scented is a compelling and poignant story that will resonate with anyone who has felt a loss of identity. It will have you smelling your way through life and pondering what scents define you and your experiences. 

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Hauturu

Lyn Wade and Dick Veitch

University Press

RRP $60

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Rising to the highest point in the Hauraki Gulf, Te Hauturu-o-Toi/ Little Barrier Island stands sentinel over its rare and endangered birds, plants and animals. New Zealand’s first nature reserve, it is also a global symbol of conservation success and innovation.

The island’s story is not just of its animals and plants, but of people, too: of Ngāti Manuhiri and Ngāti Rehua, the tangata whenua, and of the rangers, researchers and volunteers whose efforts have inspired the conservation world.

Written by experts across a range of fields, this book is a comprehensive account of the history and biodiversity of an exceptional place. 

 

The brilliance of birds

Skye Wishart, Edin Whitehead

Penguin

RRP $55

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Who knew that the morepork – our forest-dwelling owl – can turn its head 270 degrees? Or that the eastern bar-tailed godwit doubles its body weight before undertaking an epic and continuous migration of 11,000km?

Or that the tūī has a specially placed voicebox, enabling it to duet with itself, sometimes producing sounds too highfrequency for humans to hear?

The Brilliance of Birds shares the quirky and endearing characteristics of some of New Zealand’s birds and gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of our beloved feathered friends. 

 

Our dogs, ourselves

Alexandra Horowitz

Simon & Schuster

RRP $38

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From Alexandra Horowitz, numberone New York Times best-selling author of Inside of a Dog, comes an eye-opening, informative, and wholly entertaining examination and celebration of the human/ canine relationship for the curious dog-owner and science-lover alike.

In this book, Horowitz examines what’s called the ‘dog-human bond’, exploring all aspects of the complexity of this novel interspecies pairing.

In 13 thoughtful and charming chapters, Our Dogs, Ourselves affirms our profound affection for this most charismatic of animals – and opens our eyes to the companions at our sides as never before. 

 

Renia’s diary

Renia Spiegel

Penguin

RRP $38

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Renia is a Jewish girl living in Poland in 1939. When Russia and Germany invade, her world is shattered. She is separated from her mother and flees to escape the night bombing raids.

Renia sees other Jewish families disappear and witnesses the creation of the ghetto. Recently rediscovered after 70 years, Renia’s Diary is already being described as a classic of Holocaust literature.

She shares not only the terror of war but also the beauty of falling in love for the first time. Written with a clarity and skill that is reminiscent of Anne Frank, Renia’s Diary is an extraordinary testament to both the horrors of war, and to the life that can exist even in the darkest times. 

 

Caging skies

Christine Leunens

Penguin

RRP $38

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Johannes is an avid member of the Hitler Youth. As the war rages on, he discovers his parents are hiding a Jewish girl called Elsa behind a false wall in their large house in Vienna.

His initial horror turns to love and obsession. Both manipulating and manipulated, Johannes soon finds he is the only one aware of Elsa’s existence in the house, the only one responsible for her survival.

Inspiring the soon-to-be-released movie Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi, this gripping novel examines truth and lies, and lays bare our darkest impulses. 

 

 

 

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