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And I would walk 627 miles …

Rachel Joyce is a successful radio play writer for the BBC and “The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry” was her first novel. It is one of the books in our library in which several people have put comments on the “I’ve read this” sheet including ‘Amazing’, ‘Moving’, ‘Awesome read’, ‘Loved this story’ & ‘Captivating’. Well, I agree with them all. Rachel Joyce has chosen a storyline that might well have been too hard to bring off but has managed it brilliantly.

harold fryIt is inspirational without being sentimental or pious. Harold Fry is a mild, shy disappointment of a man – a failed father, a lack lustre husband, a retired and retiring chap who leaves home one morning & starts walking to a city 627 miles away.  There, a woman lies dying of cancer, whom he once knew, and who helped him by taking the blame at work for something that he did. This is his pilgrimage – the story of a walk that took 87 days and for which he  was totally unprepared – no proper shoes, no map, no raincoat, no mobile phone, no ready cash. He believes that so long as he keeps walking, the dying woman will find the will to live and await his arrival.

This is a story of hope, of courage, of friendship. Harold re-visits his life’s best and worst moments while his wife at home also comes to terms with her true feelings and begins to recognise that it takes two to make a marriage work. This is a lovely story because it’s about a very flawed man who is redeemed by his own brave, difficult but inspiring will to do what he has set out to do. Have a hankie handy!

– Janice

PS. The companion story “The love song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” by Rachel Joyce, is the story of the dying woman who Harold is trying to reach.  Go to Library Catalogue

What if you forgot a murder? Or did you…

Do you ever wonder about the lives of others; random strangers whose faces you catch a glimpse of as you pass them on the street, on the highway, or from a train? Do you ascribe them girl on traincharacteristics based on the briefest possible first impressions; make up entire lives for them? Author Paula Hawkins has used this premise as the jumping off point for her first fiction novel “The girl on the train” (which has already been optioned for film).

Rachel, spurned in love, creates an entire fantasy life for a couple she watches from the train on her daily commute to London. Rachel’s interest in the couple deepens, not least of all because they live a few houses down from her ex-husband and his new wife and child. And then the woman goes missing. And Rachel is determined to get to the bottom of it…  (Read more : warning spoilers)

This could have been a formulaic, run-of-the-mill psychological thriller, but it was much better than that, owing to Hawkins’ writing skill.

A great first novel, and a recommended read. 4 out of 5 stars.

– Tamara

China: cradle of invention?

Simon Winchester has written a number of non-fiction books, ranging from subjects like how words were collected for the 20 versions of the Oxford English Dictionary, to the story of Krakatoa, the story of maps and one called ‘The meaning of everything’. Mr Winchester is always worth reading and the one I am reviewing now is as fascinating as anything else he has written.

“The man who loved China” is the story of an English scientist, Dr. Joseph Needham, a Cambridge Don who was brilliant and eccentric, and could speak French, German, Greek and Mandarin Chinese quite fluently. He was happily married to the same woman most of his adult life but also had for decades a Chinese mistress. He was the creator and author of a multi volume work, published by the Cambridge University Press as “Science and Civilisation in China”.

Now, you may well think that this could be a rather dull book but let me tell you that it is anything but!

joseph needhamJoseph Needham led an extraordinary life. This young , tall, good-looking man who, back in the early 1930’s fell in love with China, its language and its mysteries, got the opportunity to visit that country. While he travelled around uninterrupted he searched and found evidence to bolster his convictions that long before European invention and science took off, the Chinese had invented a raft of things such as printing (from wooden blocks), the magnetic compass, explosives, suspension bridges, coal as fuel, ball bearings, air conditioning, cast iron, the cross-bow, folding chairs, the handgun, paper, the stirrup, weather vanes, inoculation and much, much more. Some of these date back to before Christ.

Dr Needham discovered documentary evidence and hidden treasures which were the basis of his hand written notes. But this is not a book so much about academic research. It has more than its share of adventure, dangerous risk taking and escapes. It was, after all, the time the Japanese had invaded China and was in possession of a large chunk of it and pressing forward to take all of it, if it could. It was also not long before Mao Tse Tung’s long march after which the Nationalists were defeated and the Communists took over.

Joseph Needham was a socialist supporter while staying on good terms with everyone he came into contact with. He was later sent back to China to give material support to the scientific community. He crossed war-torn China on thrilling and dangerous journeys. On his return to England he wanted to change the west’s antiquated perception of China, its history and its contribution to world knowledge and civilisation.

By the time he died in 1995, he had produced, almost single-handedly, 17 volumes on every aspect of science and technology. Through him and through this excellent book by Simon Winchester, we get a truer picture of China and perhaps a better understanding of how and why this great country has emerged in the 21st century, as one of the foremost economic powers ‘going forward’ as the jargon has it.

– Larry Gordon

Farewell to an awesome Kiwi … RIP Celia Lashlie

Celia Lashlie

Celia Lashlie

Celia Lashlie, the New Zealand author of He’ll be Okay: Growing Gorgeous Boys Into Good MenThe Journey to Prison: Who Goes and Why, and The Power of Mothers: Releasing Our Children died last night, from pancreatic cancer. She was aged 61.

Lashlie started her career in social work within the prison service in 1985, rising to manager of Christchurch Women’s Prison which she left in 1999. She was a Nelson manager for Specialist Education Services, and worked for a number of Nelson schools, where she developed the Good Man project working with male college students.  Celia was well known for her talks on raising teenage boys, as well as on social justice issues, and she had an extensive speaking circuit in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the United States.

Her family have set up a Givealittle page to raise funds to continue her important work.

“Every child is born pure and filled with their own particular brand of magic” – Celia Lashlie.


Her final statement issued 16 February 2015 (source:

The seductive nature of the modern world allows us as human beings to believe we are in charge. In today’s world we think we are in charge. Technological advances and intellectual knowledge we continue to acclaim, leaves us with the sense that we are in control and that there is enough time to achieve what it is we want to achieve.

We become complacent about the need to take care of ourselves… always something more to do. Some of this is driven by our desire to save the world, others driven by the desire we have to reach the many goals we have set ourselves – many of them superficial.

The simple reality is that we are not in charge and that moment of realisation comes to us when we learn of the fragility of the human spirit. For some, that lesson comes unexpectedly and hard.

Late last year I slowly became unwell. The stress of the lifestyle I was living, the demands I made of myself, the demands other people made of me and expected to meet became too great and as 2014 closed I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that had spread to my liver. No treatment, no cure, only palliative care. I’d waited too long to look after myself and my body broke.

To say that it was and is a shock is a major understatement. and as I look at the amazing family and group of friends I’m surrounded with as I now travel a different journey warms my heart. At the same time, there are feelings of trepidation about what lies ahead.

I’m now focused on the moments of magic that are appearing in front of me: The laughter of my grandchildren; a smile of a friend attempting to walk this journey with me and the pure beauty and strength of my adult children as they battle their anger, grief and sadness at what is happening to their beloved mother.

It’s time to leave the work to others now.

My wish is that others will learn to stop before I did, to take into account the limitations of their physical bodies and to take the time to listen to the yearnings of their soul. It is in the taking care of ourselves we learn the ability to take care of others.

boys into men

Hmmmm, what to read in 2015…

2015 reading bingo Challenge yourself this year!   Do Reading Bingo, try something different, explore a new genre, delve into some non-fiction on a topic you wouldn’t ordinarily investigate, or take up the Good Reads challenge!

A monk, a lawyer or a sleuth?

In ‘The gardens of the dead’ by William Brodrick, the main character is Father Anselm, a monk who had once been a barrister (just like the author) and fancies himself a sleuth.

gardens deadThus the author, having had feet in both very different worlds, has chosen to write a modern day mystery that involves both. And a very good page turning mystery it is. It is not a detective novel –  there is no official detective – and it is not a police procedural though a police officer is one character in it.

I do not want to give too much, if anything, away as plot is all important in this kind of writing. It is one of those onion like mysteries in which more and more is revealed page by page until the whole truth is uncovered, and one finishes the book pretty well satisfied that the intricate threads of the story have been brought together in the final pages.

This is no psychological, serial killer, blood thirsty or gory tale but a cleverly constructed, almost believable second novel by an author from whom further clever and highly readable stories will come, I am sure.

My only very minor winge is the title, which seems too obscure for me, but then what is in a name?

– Larry Gordon

Cats sleep anywhere!

Corinnas poem 2













– A favourite poem of Eketahuna librarian, Corinna

The Treaty of Waitangi – commemorative certificate available

This year is the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.  I have written previous posts about that so this year I want to draw your attention to the opportunity to order a commemorative birth certificate in honour of this anniversary.

The Department of Internal Affairs (Births, Deaths, Marriages and Citizenship) are proud to offer this certificate to New Zealand citizens, which will be available for order from 6 February 2015 until the end of the 2015.   This is a genuine certificate, which serves the same functions and has the same legal status and security features as a regular birth certificate.

So if your original birth certificate is a bit worn or tatty, or you are expecting a happy bundle of joy this year, you may like to choose this particular certificate.  See more

Waitangi 175 commemorative certificate example

Was Mozart murdered?

“Mozart’s last aria” by Matt Rees is a book that, for all its attractive cover and eye-catching title, has only been borrowed eight times in the last four years, and should surely have a wider readership, so I now draw it to your attention.

last ariaOn the cover it says “Musical genius, masonic initiate, murder victim”? Which was more than enough to intrigue me. Many of us remember the movie “Armadeus” based on the play which makes Salieri, the court musician to the Austrian Emperor of the day, the bitterly jealous rival of the comparable child prodigy, pianist and composer, Wolfgang Armadeus Mozart.

Using the same suspicion that Mozart, who was only 35 when he died, did not die of natural causes, the author of this book spins 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 though the author has taken the liberty of re-writing 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 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 at all interested in the possible murder of one of the great composers of all times, you will enjoy this book.

Matt Rees, as his name indicates, hails from Wales and has written four previous detective stories. This one, “Mozart’s Last Aria” 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

The perils of being a terrible reader…

book pagesI am a terrible reader. I love to look at the last few pages of a book and see if that casually mentioned character is important after all. Often with many books having the first chapter of another book at the end, I am left confused and wondering where did that twist come from! My own fault for snooping and trying to rush the story.

“The collected works of A J Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin is one such book where reading the last page won’t tell you an awful lot. This is a lovely book, gentle and well written. It has a few laugh out loud moments but mostly it is just the story of a widowed bookshop owner who finds new meaning in his life. There are a few mysteries, some gentle plot twists and a not so happy ending.

One quote on the cover says “I read it in one sitting” and once I picked it up I also read it in one go, it’s a good rainy afternoon book and it will leave you happy to have known the characters. There are no blood thirsty villains to set your heart racing or twisted love stories to wring your heart-strings but rather a set of ordinary people living ordinary lives while trying to be happy and whole. Sometimes just what we need out of a book. Enjoy.

– Corinna

Farewell to a great author … Colleen McCullough

Internationally acclaimed Australian author Colleen McCullough has died in hospital on Norfolk Island, aged 77. She was the author of acclaimed novels ‘Tim’, ‘The thorn birds’, ‘Morgan’s Run’ and many others.

colleenAlthough born and raised in Australia, her mother Laurie was a New Zealander of Maori ancestry and her father Jim was an Irish immigrant.  An intelligent child, Colleen did well and eventually worked as a neuroscientist at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, before taking on a researcher role at Yale Medical School where she worked for 10 years.  It was during her time at Yale that she wrote her first novel on her trusty typewriter.

McCullough moved to Norfolk Island and married Ric Robinson in 1984. The most recent of her 25 works, Bittersweet, was published in 2013 and she was working on a sequel prior to her death.  Read more


Your chance to hear a successful local author speak!

sue“Wairarapa Word” presents Sue McCauley -Feb 1 – Carterton Events Centre – 3pm. Entry by donation/koha.

Sue McCauley and her husband Pat Hammond live among alpacas, sheep and cattle on a farm east of Dannevirke. McCauley has written for film, tv and radio. She is also the author of four novels, two short story collections and a non-fiction book. Her book, Other Halves, won two major literary awards and was made into a film. She has been a columnist, a journalist, a teacher of creative writing, and both a literary and script editor.

It’s just a hand me down world…

Many readers will know New Zealand author Lloyd Jones, if for no other reason than his excellent book ‘Mr Pip’ (winner of the 2007 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize) which was later filmed starring British actor Hugh Laurie. Lloyd, brother of property magnate Bob Jones who is also a published author (though may I say, not in the same class), has written a dozen or so books. The one I am reviewing was published in 2010. It is quite different in plot, place and style from Mr Pip but it is every bit as well written and deserving of a large readership.

“Hand me down world” is the story of a young African woman in today’s world, working as a maid in a hotel on the coast of North Africa. She is made pregnant by a German born black man who kidnaps the baby boy when he is born, and takes him back to Berlin, leaving the mother bereft.

The plot unwinds as the mother is compelled to find her baby boy and in order to do so, has to travel by sea and then overland through Sicily, Italy, Switzerland and Austria to get to Germany. Her travels and experiences are told through the eyes of those from whom she seeks lifts and help. She starts out with no money, no identification, no passport and no linguistic skills other than English – but with a grim intent to find and repossess the child. Some people do help her, others take or try to take advantage of her, and she in turn does what she feels she must in order to succeed in her quest. Later in the story, it is retold by the mother herself and then we discover that what has gone before is only one version of the truth.

What happens in this extraordinary journey and how it reaches a conclusion, I leave for you to discover. Suffice to say it is a unique story, very well told and well worth reading. Lloyd Jones spent a year in Berlin, courtesy of Creative NZ and it was clearly a year well spent. Mr Pip was called an achingly beautiful story by one reviewer. Well Lloyd Jones has done it again  in “Hand me down world” without in any way repeating himself.

– Larry Gordon

Little Ears storytime – Dannevirke, Pahiatua, Woodville!

Yes, that’s right – Little Ears is coming to Pahiatua and Woodville Libraries!    ‘Little Ears’ is a free half hour early literacy session for pre-schoolers that is run during Term Time. Parents or caregivers, bring your little one’s along to listen to stories, sing songs, and sometimes do other activities.

Give your child a head start – expose them to reading now, and socialize them (and you) at the same time!storytime jpeg for eventfinder

  • Dannevirke Library –  every Monday, 9.30am
  • Pahiatua Library – every Tuesday, 2pm
  • Woodville Library – every Wednesday, 2pm

Questions?  Talk to your local librarian or email us.
PS : thanks to those who supported this, but Baby Rock movement to music sessions are no longer being offered at Dannevirke Library.


“The Thread” by Victoria Hislop

the threadIn Thessaloniki, 2007, Dimitri has breakfast with his grandparents, Katerina and Dimitri Komninos. After hearing a blind man exclaim how much he loves Thessaloniki, he is intrigued when his grandmother passionately agrees. His grandparents tell their story: Dimitri Komninos, son of the beautiful, loving Olga, and angry, rich textile wholesaler Konstantinos who sees Dimitri as a possession. Katerina Sarafoglou is separated from her mother as the Greeks chaotically sail to Greece when their homes in Asia Minor are destroyed. The doctor turned guerilla and modistra (seamstress) are intertwined through two World Wars, a civil war, a dictatorship and through the people they both love.

I have read The Island by Victoria Hislop, and The Thread is just as good. You can picture Greece and each character with all the tiny details that make these books especially stand out.

– Molly Thompson


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