Books about New Zealand
The best way of raising educational standards is to encourage people to read books. Have you given anyone a book for Christmas? What about one of the books reviewed here? They are all selected to interest readers of Te Ao Hou.
the Buller district till the depression robbed them of a livelihood. How they took to the bush and weathered the bad times by prospecting for gold is the story of Mr Sutherland's first book, ‘The Golden Rush.’
That is the bare outline of the story. Into it the author has packed a wealth of local history, anecdotes, and the vivid impressions of a stranger in a strange land. The gum-diggers and bushmen of the North toil again, Sister Aubert plants cherry trees along the banks of the Wanganui river, and Lofty Blomfield is popular in a Public Works camp long before the days of his fame. If Mr Sutherland has settled down somewhere at last and committed himself to one job, I hope, after reading this book, that it is writing.
—J. C. Sturm.
Doris's childhood in Wellington was happy but unsettled, and her schooling was haphazard. Consequently, her student years were a continual struggle up the marks list from bottom to top, and her House-Surgeon days can only be described as ‘toughening’. In 1917 she graduated and married Dr Gordon. Two days later her husband was sent off to the war. Over-working as a full-time lecturer and bacteriologist cured the young bride's loneliness but threatened her with tuberculosis. When the never-to-be forgotton influenza epidemic struck in 1918 she was alone in general practice in the Taranaki backblocks. For many, this will be familiar ground, and the most absorbing part of the book. Dr Gordon's maternity work among the women living on isolated farms made her a staunch advocate of painless childbirth, and eventually she and her husband set up a private maternity hospital in Stratford. But her zeal as a Baby-Doctor took her much further afield. It was largely through her work and persistence that a chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology was founded at Otago Medical School, and the Queen Mary's Maternity Hospital built in Dunedin.
This excitingly written autobiography gives the lay reader a very good idea of the labour that goes into a successful medical career, but the most remarkable thing between its covers is the vital and indomitable personality of the woman who wrote it.
—J. C. Sturm.
the mair family
The two principal figures of this book are Major William Gilbert Mair and Captain Gilbert Mair, and a large part of the book is taken up with their experiences in the unhappy days of Maori-Pakeha conflict. But the book tells as much of the bravery and determination of the one side as of the other—and what exciting stories it relates. As the authors point out, the accounts supplied by Gilbert of the service of William and himself are often the only material available to a historian of the Maori wars, and James Cowan's book the New Zealand Wars is, in parts, founded almost entirely on these accounts. William was the bearer of the truce offer at Orakau when the famous reply of rejection was given, and his detailed account of the occasion is given in this book.
But the lives of the brothers were by no means confined to military exploits. Born in the Bay of Islands at the trading station established in 1830 by their father (also, to our confusion, Gilbert) they had grown up among Maoris and spoke Maori as a matter of course. With their knowledge of Maori ways and attitudes it was inevitable that they should be sought by Government for the public service.
Major William was a resident Magistrate and Judge of the Maori Land Court. He also had a semi-diplomatic interlude in Samoa. To these occupations can be added his brief experience in the gold-diggings of Australia, and his latter days as a farmer.
Captain Gilbert was also employed in the Government service, but he will probably be remembered longer for his connection with Bay of Plenty affairs, and by Te Arawa in particular for his part, just before his death, in the great Lakes case. His relationship with Te Arawa can best be judged by the manner in which the tribal leaders escorted his body from Tauranga to his burial place at Ohinemutu with frequent stops on the route to allow the traditional mourning ceremonies at outlying maraes.
Although both the Mairs were Government officers for long periods they were men of independent views and on more than one occasion, to their detriment, they made clear their opinions of Government policies and actions.
It is surprising to realise that Gilbert, born in the 1830's, died as recently as 1922. Some at least of the people who knew him well, in his latter days, are still alive.
A book with such lives as these to relate could hardly fail to be readable and interesting and the authors have certainly not failed in this direction. The scheme of the book is a little confusing at times but this is probably difficult to avoid in a work comprising substantially the biographies of two brothers—with a much smaller space given to the other members of the family. The shifts in chronology can confuse and there is some little difficulty in keeping a clear distinction between the brothers due to the similarity in names.
—E. W. Williams.
the maori king,
Gorst writes the inside story of the King movement with the detachment of one on the outside. Unlike most of our all-too-sturdy pioneers, Gorst had the time and the training both to make and to write history.
He had the great advantage of first-hand knowledge. He was, until 1862, trusted on both sides of the Waikato River. But his appointment by Grey as Commissioner for the Waikato led to the enmity of extremists, such as Rewi Maniapoto, who later became dominant on the Maori side. However, unlike the now overrated Judge Maning, Gorst remained a friend of the Maori people to the last.
But Gorst's friendship fortunately did not mean the suspension of his critical faculty. He could so easily have added one more to the many vitriolic pamphlets of his day. Instead he produced a history that demands reprinting, and unlike most reprints, demands no revision.
Gorst is one of the few men of university training who managed to write more than a potted history of New Zealand.
He described the minor misdemeanours and misunderstandings and the major incompetences and injustices that finally made the Waikato war inevitable. He is equally at home in the corridor intrigues and backroom jealousies of official Auckland, as he is in the three-day sessions and six-day journeys of the Waikato and King Country. Yet he belongs neither to Waikato, nor to Auckland. He observes, with an objetcive eye, the attempt of the more enlightened leaders of the Maori people to impose order upon chaos.
The Native Department's main concern was buying native land. There was little law, and that late. Ignoring frequent petitions from across the Waikato, the government refused to govern.
So denied the right to European law and order, the Maori people, under their traditional leaders and the new influences of Christianity and nationalism, set up their own kingdom. Then, too late, the Europeans asserted their right to govern.
That, vastly oversimplified, is Gorst's account.
Sir John Gorst relies mainly on parliamentary files to authenticate his account. He sets out purposefully to write the truth that had been suppressed in most of the official and newspaper reports, but because Gorst takes good care to maintain an objective attitude his “Maori King” seems a more effective defence of the Maori position than Scott's “Parihaka Story.”
His style, good though it is, appears thin and tired beside quotations from speeches and letters in the Maori Biblical style.
The integration of Bible English with the old Maori tradition of oratory is seen at its best in the letter of Wiremu Tamehana to Governor Browne and in many of the quoted speeches during the great korero at Rangiriri (May 1857) Modern politicians are pale lilies beside a Tamehana, Te Whiti or Te Heu Heu.