A BETTER PLACE – A novel of early New Zealand
Cover Illustration: watercolour by Enid MEYER
ISBN – 9 780986 459375
A Better Place tells the stories of early European settlers in and around the township of Greytown in the Wairarapa district in the late 1860s. Through the experiences of Kate, newly arrived from England, we learn about the people and the hard physical labour required to turn native forest and bush into productive farming land. As Greytown – the first Small Farms Settlement inland township – grows, and other small townships develop further north in the valley, Kate her two children and her husband introduce us to many characters, both the gentile and the rough diamonds.
(I’ve not completed it yet – it’s totally absorbing, and I felt the review needn’t wait.
Mrs Meyer used to run a berry orchard in Greytown, and in childhood my cousins and siblings spent many late summer weekend afternoons picking berries (sneaking the odd one or two straight into greedy mouths. I am told this is her first book, but that she has enough material to produce two further books.)
Suddenly, Jake struggled to sit up, gasping, “Where’s Patrick? Did you see him in the canoe?”
“No boy, we didn’t see anyone else. For God’s sake, how many of you were playing around like idiots in the flood?” asked an older man.
“Just me and Patrick. We got into the canoe and were just sitting in it by the side of the bank, when this big rush of water came down the river and the canoe took off. We didn’t have any paddles but were fine until the canoe tipped over. I grabbed the log. I don’t know what happened to Patrick.”
“What have you got to say to Mr O’Brien, Jake?” asked John.
“Thank you for saving me sir, but can we please look for Patrick?” He looked up at the men with tears in his eyes. He realised what had nearly happened to him. Patrick might not have been so lucky.
When two horsemen arrived at a gallop, John looked to see Ru and Rangi with, hanging over the front of Rangi’s saddle, the limp body of Patrick.
“We found him caught in the branches of a tree about half a mile away,” Rangi said. “We’ve tried to revive him but had no luck.” He looked at Jake as he spoke. “I’m sorry young fella. This is what happens when you take chances with nature. This river is so strong and so fast; he’d have had no chance. What should we do now boss? Take him home to his family?”
Edit, 17 Jan
I completed reading the book, and Enid Meyer’s style of writing is one which drew me into the community completely; I felt I was sharing the families’ daily events and major problems.
I have learned that (here in New Zealand) Whitcoulls are having another run published, and it will be readily available.
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