by Gracie Stathers
Gracie Stathers explores her family heritage and links it to New Zealand history in this interesting book.
The story begins with a fictionalised history of her European ancestors. The time frame runs roughly from 1840 to 1945. As the author says in her prologue, “never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.”
The families left behind hardship in hope of a better future. They gambled their lives on dangerous sea voyages to unknown destinations, just like the reviled “economic refugees” of today. These were tough people. They endured convict life on Norfolk Island, near-shipwrecks, accidents, and personal loss. The relaxed structure of loosely connected vignettes makes this an easy read. The author weaves together domestic activities, historical facts and dialogue with a practiced hand.
The historical section is followed by a personal biography. Many experiences in the author’s life will be familiar to baby boomers from Australia as well as New Zealand. I was touched by her grandmother’s struggle with her prosthetic leg, the result of childhood poliomyelitis.
The author also outlines the development of her interest in alternative medicine.
The third section of the book is an essay on New Zealand’s future in a century of internet, robotics and globalisation. The cyber future will create unemployment and hardship, just as the industrial revolution did. The author’s pride and confidence in New Zealand’s ability to solve these problems shines through.
A fun short story about settlers colonising Mars forms the epilogue.
Stathers ties her family history and personal memories to wider historical contexts in an original way. The essay section was heavier going, and I would have liked to know more about the Maori perspective on European settlement. However, I enjoyed this very readable book, which would appeal especially to fans of biographies and historical fiction.
Author: Gracie Stathers
Publisher: Wallace Publishing
RRP: $28.00 paper; kindle US$2.99
Available: Books A Plenty, Tauranga