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Three fictional suffragettes…

A Sister’s Courage by Catherine King is set in the early 1900s, and is a story of three women from very different backgrounds.

sisters courageMeg Parker is a mill worker. She was not able to further her education as it was more important for her brothers to get an education and good jobs. When her mother passed away she gave up  the chance of love to look after her father. When her Dad remarried  things went from bad to worse for Meg. Lady Alice Langton is able to have some independence after her grandmother leaves her an inheritance. Florence Brookes  is the daughter of a prosperous grocer, engaged to a self made ‘ideal’ man.

They join forces and travel the Yorkshire  dales spreading the suffragette message. From there they go on to London. Meg is so appalled by the others lack of domestic skills that she goes along as their maid servant.

This is a love story.  It is also  a story of the hardships that were faced by women seeking better conditions. A good read.

- Janice

See catalogue

Read more about suffragettes

How did Mozart really die?

A book that, for all its attractive cover and eye catching title, has only been borrowed once in 2012, once in 2013 and once in 2014 (me) and should surely have a wider readership, so I now draw it to your attention. “Mozart’s last aria” by Matt Rees says on the cover ‘musical genius, masonic initiate, murder victim? Which was more than enough to intrigue me.

mozart quoteMany of us remember the movie ‘Amadeus”  based on the play which makes Salieri, the court musician to the Austrian Emperor of the day, the bitterly jealous rival of the incomparable child prodigy, pianist and composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Using the same suspicion that Mozart was only 35 when he died and did not die of natural causes, the author tells a tale of mystery and murder woven around the central character of Maria Anna Mozart, Wolfgang’s sister.

It is worth noting that nearly all of the characters in this tale actually lived although the author has taken the liberty of rewriting their stories. Maria Anna was as accomplished a pianist as her brother but was held back from pursuing a musical career by a greedy and selfish father. She loses touch with her famous brother when they quarrel over an inheritance but when she hears that rumours are in circulation about his death and what he was involved in at the time, she travels from her provincial home to Vienna to find the truth. There she discovers that Mozart had become a member of a masonic lodge and was caught up in court intrigue, coming under the suspicion of the minister of police.

I will not reveal much else of the plot but if you like a history/mystery and if you are interested in the possible murder of one of the greatest composers of all time, you will enjoy this book. Matt Rees, as his name indicates, hails from Wales and he has written four previous detective stories. This one required considerable research into Mozart, his times and his music, so it may appeal to you from more than one point of view.

- Larry Gordon

See catalogue

Read more about Mozart’s cause of death


How would you solve a crime if you can’t remember what happened?

“Elizabeth is missing”,  the debut novel by Emma Healey, is in my opinion, perfectly written – there is absolutely nothing I would add,  change or delete.  And believe me, as a librarian, I don’t often say that.

Elizabeth-is-Missing-final-UK-cover-copyThe main character is Maud, an eighty-two year old woman with rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s disease.  Healey portrays Maud with amazing insight, and anyone who has experienced dealing with a loved one who has dementia will easily recognise the signs.  In that regard, I found it a rather confronting read as my grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s too, and this story brought back some unwelcome memories.  But taking it one confronting chapter at a time, I did finish it – although it was a bit annoying as it’s one of those books you really don’t want to put down, but I found I had to!

The novel presents simultaneous mysteries. In the present day, what has happened to Maud’s good friend Elizabeth?  Her house is empty, her son is selling off her things.  Interspersed with flash backs of what happened to her older sister Sukey?  She disappeared without trace 70 years previously, and although Sukey’s husband Frank and good friend Douglas were suspects, the mystery was never solved and Maud never got over it.

In the beginning, Maud realises she has been getting forgetful so she writes notes to remind herself of things.  Copious notes in fact, sprinkled around the house and all through her pockets – unfortunately, when she finds them, she cannot fathom what they mean.  As Maud loses more and more of her cognitive abilities and starts to not recognize people and things, and forget words (like, sandwiches become ‘stuffed and buttered breads cut into squares’), the reader can sense her frustration at trying to both solve the mystery of Elizabeth without being able to explain anything to anyone properly, and her difficulty differentiating the past (Sukey) from the present.

Healey also does an excellent job also with the character of Helen, Maud’s daughter, who is exasperated and frustrated by her mother.  At the start of the story, she believes her mother is more capable than she is and that she is wilfully misbehaving, but her understanding progresses through the book – as does ours – so that by the end the sub-plot of the relationship between them has changed remarkably.

And the two mysteries are also quite fascinating, especially as Healey is very adept at red herrings.  A very satisfying and enlightening read, that would make an excellent movie as well.  This one might make it onto my very exclusive bookshelf!    5/5

Read another review from The Independent

- Natalie

 See catalogue

The Prince, the Princess and the perfect murder!

From Eketahuna Library, I borrowed a book with the enticing title ‘The Prince, the Princess and the perfect murder’ by Andrew Rose (2013). On the cover was a photo of the handsome and youthful Prince of Wales. This was the heir to the throne who briefly became King Edward VIII and then abdicated because he was not allowed to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson.

prince princessThis book is the hitherto untold story of a major scandal, a murder and a trial in which the main figure is a previous mistress of the young prince. Since, in those days at least, scandal of any kind was not to be allowed to tarnish the reputation of the Royal Family, this connection between the Prince and the Courtesan, a high class woman of easy virtue, was very successfully hushed up. The woman in question was French and was introduced to the 17 year old Prince of Wales just before World War One. She later married a millionaire Egyptian who, subsequently, she shot to death. Her trial for murder hit the headlines because she belonged to the highest circle of society in both Paris and London and was an associate of many well placed men over a number of years.

This piece of social history, is a fascinating account of the Edward, Prince of Wales, and his early years, the high society he moved in and the scandalous behaviour of this so-called Princess with whom he had a love affair. It paints a detailed portrait of this tawdry episode in the life of a hedonistic ‘royal’, whose later behaviour and character as the Duke of Windsor ensured that he had little or no part to play in court life for the rest of his life. Edward, aka the Duke, is shown to be a shallow young man whose only interest was in charming women until he finally found Mrs Simpson who was the kind of woman he most admired. This is a well-researched and competently written true story of high society high jinks and appalling behaviour of those who should have known better.    See catalogue

- Larry Gordon

Read another review by Royalty Magazine

Could you survive 10 years in a concentration camp?

Spark of life‘ is a 1952 novel by Erich Maria Remarque  (author of  the famous war novel ‘All quiet on the western front’)  and is a fictional documentary-style tale featuring prisoner number 509.

Originally an editor, 509 was thrown in prison due to his political views, spark lifeand when that prison became Mellern Concentration Camp during World War II, he was absorbed into the mass of Jewish and other prisoners. Now in the ‘small camp’, which is where prisoners unable to work anymore are sent to die from starvation or disease, he is intent on staying under the radar. He identifies solely as 509 – he doesn’t dare think of the future or remember the past when he had a name.  Surviving hour by hour is all that matters.

When the nearby town starts being bombed by the Americans, 509 realises that all is not lost. He sets about inspiring his fellow prisoners to have hope again, fanning the spark of life to survive until they are rescued.  Of course, in the meantime, the SS and Nazi Commandant are intent on erasing any evidence of their activities.

To me, this seemed a very realistic portrayal of what life may have been like for a concentration camp prisoner, and also in the attitude and behaviour of the Nazi characters, who considered the people in the camps as less than human, and often less than animals.  This authenticity is to be expected I suppose, considering the author was a German soldier who probably witnessed similar events.

It was not a pleasant read, with graphic descriptions of torture and cruelty. But despite all that, it had a strong impact, ultimately inspiring and it has lingered in my memory long after the final word.  4/5

- Natalie Raynel

‘The religion’ by Tim Willocks

willocksI’ve been to Malta – it’s a beautiful island with a long and proud history. I didn’t know that one of the biggest sieges happened there in the 16th century between the knights of St John and the armies of Suleiman Shah. This book is a no holds barred story about the siege and its consequences for the Maltese, the knights and the Muslim hordes.

Brilliantly written, it is both gripping and sometimes traumatic. Tim Willocks does not stint on the description of death and horror. You begin to smell the rotting corpses and understand the shell shock for those living and dying on this small disputed piece of land. The story behind the battles and gore is also well written and I really liked the lead character Mattias.

I might just wait to read the second of this trilogy, ‘The twelve children of Paris’ as I’m just a bit off blood and gore for now. Mr Willocks has a style of writing that is beautiful, funny and prosy. I laughed out loud in some places, his characters really engage you with their trials and tribulations and it brings this time in history to life.  This is not a gentle love story, it’s not for the faint hearted, but it a gripping informative read, well written and excellently researched. If you want something just a bit untamed this is the book for you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Until next time.

- Corinna

“The extraordinary journey of the Fakir who was trapped in an Ikea wardrobe” by Romain Puertolas.

When I was younger I loved watching Harold Lloyd black and white films. They were gentle comedies where the hero got into a selection of scrapes through no fault of his own, a misstep, a wrong turn and life threw a curve ball. That’s how I felt when I read this French best-seller book and I read it very quickly, as it’s an easy, fun read.

The Fakir in question embarks on a series of adventures after landing in Paris to buy a bed of nails from Ikea. Now, I’ve been to Ikea, I’ve eaten their Swedish meatballs and wondered through the hypnotic layout as I grabbed things I’ll never need just because, but I never saw a bed of nails for sale. Maybe they don’t do so well in the UK?

The Fakir’s adventures are outlandish, improbable and sometimes silly but they cover a topic that is very real and let you watch this man as he evolves and has a series of electric shocks to his heart through others good deeds. It’s a happy ever after story with a smile for you at the end and the journey to the last page is enjoyable and light hearted. I did feel that I might have missed a few pages, there seems to be a big jump in the last chapter but by the time our hero has flown across half the Mediterranean in a hot air balloon and ended up in Libya, I had suspended all belief anyway so I will forgive the author if he too ran out of puff.

I found this book via another review and was very glad I did. I hope you enjoy it too. Until next time.  – Corinna

Another review

This novel was dreamt up by a guy with an equally puzzling name – Romain Puertolas. Is he French, Spanish, Portuguese or English? I don’t know! The book is a fairy tale, a fable and a delightfully simple tale into which you read all kinds of positive messages. It is the story of an Indian con-man who has persuaded his village that he needs a new bed of nails. It is available in Ikea, the huge Swedish furniture retail chain which has branches everywhere except New Zealand, and he flies to Paris to get one. Once inside the store things begin to go seriously wrong for our Fakir and in short order he finds himself in England, then Spain, then Italy and finally in Libya before he finds himself back in Paris after a series of crazy happenings, falling in love and nearly getting himself murdered. This is a charming, totally extraordinary tale, easy to read and easy to enjoy. Don’t be surprised if it is filmed in the future. If you feel like something funny, quirky and with some good things to say about life and how we react to fortune  and misfortune, I think you might well enjoy this highly ‘comic little jewel’ as a reviewer described it, as much as I did. – Larry Gordon




New Zealand declares war on the Ottoman Empire!

ottoman empireOn 2 November 1914, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire, an ally of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires. The British Empire (including New Zealand) and France then declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 5 November 1914.

There were three British campaigns directed to the Ottoman Empire; Dardanelles, (with France), Mesopotamia and Sinai-Palestine-Syria. The first of these campaigns was a naval and land campaign and the other two were land campaigns. The Ottomans were eventually defeated due to key attacks by the British general Edmund Allenby.  Source: Wikipedia

Read more

What was the Ottoman Empire?

The Ottoman Empire was created by Turkish tribes in Anatolia. One of the most powerful states in the world during the 15th and 16th centuries, it spanned more than 600 years and came to an end only in 1922, when it was replaced by the Turkish Republic and various successor states in southeastern Europe and the Middle East. At its height the empire included most of southeastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, including modern Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, Greece, and Ukraine; Iraq, Syria, Israel, and Egypt; North Africa as far west as Algeria; and most of the Arabian Peninsula.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica 2014

Is your child scared of the neighbours?

take you mrs coleFirst published in 1985, “I’ll take you to Mrs Cole!” is a picture book for children which has recently been re-issued in paperback. Written by Nigel Gray, it tells the story of a young boy who is left home alone a lot, while his Mother works.  Often, he gets into mischief or fails to do his chores, and his Mother threatens that she’ll take him to scary Mrs Cole’s if he doesn’t behave.

Mrs Cole lives in a noisy, run-down house down the street, with many children. The boy imagines that Mrs Cole makes her children do all the housework, gives them nothing but cabbage to eat, whips them, and keeps them in a dungeon with her pet alligator.  One day, he decides to run away but he has nowhere to go – until Mrs Cole invites him inside and he discovers that appearances can be deceiving.

A lovely story that will fascinate children aged 4 to 8 years, and teach a moral lesson at the same time.  Visit catalogue.

- Natalie

Music and New Zealand. Sweet as …

“Sweet As : journeys in a New Zealand summer” by Garth Cartwright is a 2011 non-fiction book which has clearly been popular in the library, and I can heartily recommend it too.

Garth Cartwright

Garth Cartwright

An expatriate Kiwi named Garth Cartwright came home after having lived for 20 years in the United Kingdom, working as a critic and journalist and specialising in music, travel and arts. Garth decided, having written two previous travel books, to take a summer trip through New Zealand from top to bottom and write of his experiences, of meeting old and new friends, and reflect on the changes he sees as he travels.

He writes with humour and with a great deal of knowledge about past and current trends and tastes in the world of music and the arts. He also pokes a good few sticks and tells some tall stories along the way. I had never heard of Garth Cartwright before I read ‘Sweet As’ and I have no idea what he has been up to since 2010 but I wish him well and hope he may come back to Mount Roskill, where he was born and raised and write another funny and endearing book about NZ.

- Larry Gordon


Interview with author

Polish children in Pahiatua – 70th anniversary

1 November 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of the arrival of 733 Polish children and 105 Polish adults in Pahiatua, Tararua District. A ‘Polish Week’ is being held from 27th of October to 3rd of November with Pahiatua’s Main Street decorated in a Polish theme to welcome the visiting Polish children and their descendants. On 30th October, the ‘Polish Children’ will be welcomed back to Pahiatua by Mayor Roly Ellis at the Town Hall, and tours will be offered, including to the Polish Memorial just south of Pahiatua. Pahiatua residents are asked to join in lining the streets of the town to welcome them back again.  For more information on Polish Week, please contact the Pahiatua Information Centre 06 376 6619.

So why were the Polish children and adults forced to leave their homeland and travel the enormous distance of 17,730 kilometres to New Zealand? After the outbreak of World War II in 1939 when the German army invaded Poland, their allies the Soviets entered Eastern Poland on September 27 and so began the mass deportation of Polish citizens to the USSR.

Kindergarten group at a Polish refugee camp, Pahiatua, 7 February 1945.

Kindergarten group at a Polish refugee camp, Pahiatua, 7 February 1945.

By 1940, cracks were starting to appear in the German-Russian alliance, sparked by disagreements over the division of land captured as spoils of war; as well as conflict over the terms of the USSR’s entry to the Axis Pact. Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the USSR on 22 June 1941. By this time, more than one and a half million Polish citizens had been deported to Russia. Because of the German attack, Poles who were to be deported to the USSR were granted amnesty, as Poland, USSR, UK, and other allies were now fighting a common enemy. 72,000 Polish soldiers and 44,000 civilians were evacuated to Iran, but when the soldiers left Iran to fight in North Africa and Italy, the civilians were stranded. A call for international help resulted in the New Zealand government inviting a group of orphaned Polish children to New Zealand.On 27 September 1944, 733 children and 105 adults departed Isfahan for Ahwaz in southwest Iran. From here, they crossed to Iraq and boarded a British merchant ship and sailed the length of the Persian Gulf, then crossed the Arabian Sea to Bombay in India, where they boarded an American troopship that was taking 3,000 Australian and New Zealand soldiers home. After only one stop at Melbourne, the ship sailed into Wellington Harbour on 31 October 1944.

The Polish refugees travelled by two special trains to Pahiatua Station where thirty-three army trucks transported them to what originally was the Pahiatua Racecourse, but had been converted into the ‘Polish Children’s Camp’. Owing to the decimation of their country, the Polish Government could only offer limited financial assistance, so the New Zealand Government financed the camp, and it was administered by the Ministry of Defence and run by the army.The children were encouraged to assist with cleaning the campgrounds and classrooms; washing dishes; and working in the gardens. All teaching was done in the Polish language, all the street names were in Polish as it was intended that the children would return to Poland.

To help the children become acquainted with New Zealand life they and the adults were invited to spend two weeks holiday with New Zealand families. As the children finished the equivalent of Standard 6 in Polish schools, they were sent on to further education or to learn trades. In February 1945, the first group of girls left the camp to go to New Zealand schools. Later another group went to Convent Schools. The last group left on 15 April 1949. When the last Polish Children left, the camp was converted to accommodate ‘Displaced Persons’ who had migrated from camps in Germany.

Despite every care taken to keep the Polish people close to their culture in the expectation of repatriation, the Russians insisted on installing a pro-Russian Communist government in Poland and retained the territories occupied in 1939. Britain and the United States agreed to this at Yalta Conference in 1945 and because most of the children and personnel of the Polish Children’s Camp were from Eastern Poland, they could not return home. Tragically, they became stateless people because of these boundary changes. On a happier note, the Polish refugees became naturalised citizens of New Zealand in 1949.
The former children of the Polish Children’s Camp felt that they could not allow the only tangible reminder of their happy years at the Camp to disappear. Therefore, the Polish Children’s Memorial Committee was convened in order to build a monument and establish a rest area. The Monument, a white marble monolith, was unveiled on 22 February 1975.

This article compiled by Tam Jones from information sourced from J Zawada of the Polish Children’s Jubilee Committee, kindly supplied by Wyn Davidson.

Tararua District Library holds books related to the Polish refugees:

  •  ‘The Invited: the story of 733 Polish children who grew up in New Zealand’ by Krstyna Skwarko
  •  ‘New Zealand’s First Refugees: Pahiatua’s Polish Children’ by the Polish Children’s Reunion Committee
  •  ‘A Strange Outcome – the Remarkable Survival Story of a Polish Child’ by John Roy-Wojciechowski
  •  ‘Essence’ by Krystine Tomasyk
  •  ‘A new tomorrow: the story of a Polish-Kiwi family’ by Witold (Vic) Domanski


For more information online about the Polish refugees, click on the links below: (short film)–2009110117  (65th anniversary)

Above: Published on Mar 28, 2012 New Zealand National Film Unit presents Story of 700 Polish Children (1966)






Can you recognize any relatives meeting the Queen?

Queen Elizabeth II visit to Dannevirke 1954

On 7 January 1954, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip briefly visited Dannevirke.  The royal train arrives at time marker 3:56.

It’s a fascinating view into Dannevirke and Royalty of times past. Can you identify any relatives? Please comment if you do – we’d love to know!

Film taken by Maurice France. Purchased by the Dannevirke Borough Council in 1955 to serve as a record of the Queen’s visit, which was part of the Royal Tour of NZ.  The film is now stored at Archives Central on behalf of Tararua District Council.


Norsewood – world famous in Tararua District!

There have been several books written about local towns (as below) and now we have another excellent volume which was launched this week – “Norsewood: a special settlement” by Diane and Terry Kitt is a 517 page volume full of very interesting information (see more).

norsewoodBoth authors have Scandinavian roots. Diane is a Norsewood local and descendant of the first settlers of Norwegian and Moravian origin. Terry identifies with Scandinavians from Normandy settlement. They lived away from the area for a while, but moved back to Norsewood in 1991 operating an antique and collectible business, and being involved in local affairs. Currently living in Dannevirke, they chose to research and compile this as a lasting tribute to “Norsewood, the village that refused to die” — provided by publisher.

A sample of books about Tararua that we have in our collection:

  •  “Dannevirke: the early years” by Rob McDonald
  • “This is Woodville : a chronicle of 81 town sections auctioned at Napier 16 January 1875, a business history” by Joan McIntyre
  • “A goodly heritage : Eketahuna and districts 100 years, 1873 – 1973″ by Irene Adcock
  • “Tui country : a history of the Pahiatua County” by Angus McCallum

“Norsewood: a special settlement” is available to borrow from Tararua District Library now.  The Kitts have kindly donated rights and profits from the book to Norsewood Promotions, and copies of the book can be purchased from Paper Plus Dannevirke and all main shops in Norsewood – including the Scandi Superette, Norsewood Café, Norsewear. That said, rumour has it that the first print run is sold out already!

How not to kill your kids before they turn 18!

How’s that for a title to grab your attention!  “How NOT to kill your kids before they turn 18″ by Tonya E. Joyner is only 125 pages whick makes it a quick easy read- it only took about an hour with a few breaks in between to allow for parenting of course.

how not to kill kidsIt is for anyone and everyone who is interested in making it through parenthood, or who have made it through but may need to revise what went on within the family. It describes surreal situations and things experienced daily for parents or caregivers. Things that will make you nod your head in agreement and smile every now and again as you can imagine yourself or your children doing the things described.

It has great guidelines to follow,  and the concepts for running smoother, healthier, family relationships are quick and simple so therefore easy to remember. It covers everything:

  • parenting basics
  • having organisation within the family, “keeping it together”
  • putting systems in place for the family
  • communication and disagreements
  • chores children are capable of and for what ages
  • tips on other topics pre-teens and teenagers.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to upskill, or increase their knowledge of parenting.

- Danielle



Best fiction book in the world 2014!

road narrow northThe Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014 has been awarded to “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Australian author Richard Flanagan.  Must be something about the Southern Hemisphere, as of course, our own Eleanor Catlin won for ‘The Luminiaries’ last year!   Reserve here

‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ is about Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife. The story journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

It’s about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.  (Provided by publisher)

The judges described The Narrow Road to the Deep North as a book that “kicks you so hard in the stomach” it takes the breath away.   It took Flanagan 12 years and five drafts to complete, but at least he is now rewarded with prestige as well as £50,000, and no doubt, many more book sales now.


Read an excerpt


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