People & Places eNewsletter for May

Here’s another selection of highlights from our catalogue to bring you up to speed on some of the great new items we’ve added.

Library News


Do we really need another biography of Hitler? A.N. Wilson, one of Britain’s most repected historians, thinks we do and in his short study offers several interesting new theories about this monstrous man. He feels that Hitler had a sense of intuition bordering on genius and that he realised that the spoken word was going to the most important medium of communication in the twentieth century. Wilson sees him as the forerunner of Hollywood and TV stars and post-war politicians. He also postulates that the Allies had ample opportunity to arrest Hitler’s relentless rise to power.

If this had happened then Miriam Franks and her mother would not have not have had to to flee Europe and embark on peripatetic wanderings around the world, finally settling in New Zealand. Miriam did not stay here, however. She returned to Europe at the age of sixteen to train as a doctor and lived a most interesting and event-filled life, eventually reconciling herself to the disruption the war had caused her and coming to an understanding of the unhappinesss it had caused between her mother and herself.

Syndetics book coverMy innocent absence : tales from a nomadic life / Miriam Frank.
“When five-year-old Miriam boards the Serpa Pinto in 1941, she is unaware that she and her mother Käte are escaping the roundups, separations and final extermination camps. She is leaving a world of Communists and Nazis, Republicans and Fascists, collaborators and resistance fighters, Jews and stateless refugees. But sometimes the mere fact of survival is not enough. As adolescence approaches, Miriam faces new challenges as her mother turns from guardian and protector to her strongest critic. The constant flight and upheaval that once united them now seems to drive them apart. After a failed reconciliation with Miriam’s father, Käte moves again, this time to New Zealand. By the age of twelve Miriam has fled two wars and lived on three continents. Gradually understanding the horror of the Holocaust and its long shadow, she begins to train as a doctor, when only sixteen: the preservation of life and alleviation of pain becomes the focus of her professional career. She returns to Europe, settles in London and marries Kortokraks, a German artist, former assistant to Oscar Kokoschka – the start of yet more challenging and enriching experiences on her journey from a fragmented start to wholeness.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHitler : a short biography / A.N. Wilson.
“A short, sharp, gripping account of the twentieth century’s most notorious figure by one of our finest biographers.In this brilliant short biography of Adolf Hitler, acclaimed historian A. N. Wilson offers a fresh interpretation of the life of the ‘ultimate demon-tyrant of history’. Among the book’s many insights, Wilson shows how Hitler had an intuitive sense which amounted to genius that the spoken word was going to be of more significance than the written word during the twentieth century. In this respect, the Führer is presented as a man ahead of his time, who foreshadowed Hollywood and TV stars and post-war politicians. In a field dense with lengthy tomes, this brief, penetrating portrait provides a compelling introduction to a man whose evil continues to fascinate and appall.” – (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverFranklin and Eleanor : an extraordinary marriage / Hazel Rowley.
“Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelts marriage is one of the most celebrated and scrutinized partnerships in presidential history. It raised eyebrows in their lifetimes and has only become more controversial since their deaths. From FDRs lifelong romance with Lucy Mercer to Eleanors purported lesbianism and many scandals in between, the American public has never tired of speculating about the ties that bound these two headstrong individuals. Some claim that Eleanor sacrificed her personal happiness to accommodate FDRs needs; others claim that the marriage was nothing more than a gracious facade for political convenience. No one has told the full story until now. In this groundbreaking new account of the marriage, Hazel Rowley describes the remarkable courage and lack of convention – private and public – that kept FDR and Eleanor together.” – (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe Naga queen : Ursula Graham Bower and her jungle warriors, 1939-45 / Vicky Thomas.
“In 1937, Ursula Bower visited Nagaland at the invitation of a friend, and on a dispensary tour encountered the Naga people. She was so taken was with their striking dignity, tribal pride and unique culture that she arranged to live among them to write an anthropological study. But she became more than an observer – living alone among them, Ursula was integrated into their village life, becoming their figurehead when in 1944 the Japanese invaded the jungles of Nagaland from Burma.” – (adapted from summary)

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Travel stories & guides

From foodie haunts around Paris to opportunities for a volunteer vacation – there’s something for everyone in our picks of the new travel books. Examine social aspects of travel 100 years ago aboard the Titanic; follow one man’s journey around deep-fried, pound-shop, decidedly non-touristy destinations in Britain; explore East Africa; and read up on a night owl’s guide to the British Isles. Plus, New Zealander Marianne Elliott’s story of her U.N. work in Afghanistan. Have a browse!

Syndetics book coverZen under fire : a New Zealand woman’s story of love and war in Afghanistan / Marianne Elliott.
“…a vivid and deeply personal account of a young woman’s time living and working as a peacekeeper in one of the world’s most notorious battlegrounds. As well as sharing the incredible details of her UN work in and around Herat and the remote province of Ghor, Marianne tells of the shattering effects of this high-stress, high-danger environment on her and her relationships – and how, amid the turmoil, she begins to find her way back to herself.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSicily, it’s not quite Tuscany / Shamus Sillar.
“This is the story of an Aussie couple who sought a Mediterranean sea change only to find themselves in the sprawling Sicilian city of Catania – the ‘anti-Tuscany’ of Italy. … Shamus and Gill’s tiny apartment in Catania was located in a grim neighbourhood opposite a triple-X cinema and a shop selling coffins, nearby Mount Etna erupted soon after their arrival, a mystery ailment left Shamus in a neck brace, they crashed a Vespa and had regular dealings with at least one Mafioso. This, then, is an Italian sea change with grit. But it’s also a story of optimism, endurance and acceptance, an exploration of the minutiae of Sicilian culture, history, food and religion, and an example of how to find beauty – and humour – in the most unexpected of places.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTitanic lives : migrants and millionaires, conmen and crew / Richard Davenport-Hines.
In Titanic Lives, Richard Davenport-Hines brings to life in fascinating and absorbing detail the stories of the men who built and owned the ship, the crew who serviced her and the passengers of all classes who sailed on her. … In this epic, sweeping history we are introduced to this broad cast of characters, from every class and every continent, as we follow their lives on board the ship through to the supreme dramatic climax of the disaster itself. Published to coincide with the centenary of the sinking, Titanic Lives is an impeccably researched and utterly riveting history which re-creates the complexities, disparities and tensions of life one hundred years ago.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

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We have some great new history books this month including a look at one man’s jouney through the New Zealand Wars; a history of Jewish lives in New Zealand; and the story of how a struggle between queens and kings, churchmen and explorers made the world’s oceans a battleground. Enjoy!

Syndetics book coverJewish lives in New Zealand : a history / Leonard Bell and Diana Morrow, editors.
“The census tells us that 8000 New Zealanders actively identify as Jewish and it is estimated that the broader population is probably around 25,000. There has never been an authoritative history of this country’s Jewish population and yet people of Jewish descent (both secular and religious) have played vital roles in all aspects of our society throughout its history. Auckland alone has had five Jewish mayors. Jews have been prominent in New Zealand’s business, cultural, intellectual, political, medical, intellectual life and more since the 1840s, and successive waves of immigration have added to the tapestry of New Zealand Jewry. This significant book covers key sectors of activity with specialist writers assigned to each. Richly illustrated, it slots another important piece into the jigsaw of our history.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverThe first frontier : the forgotten history of struggle, savagery, and endurance in early America / Scott Weidensaul.
“Frontier: the word carries the inevitable scent of the West. But before Custer or Lewis and Clark, before the first Conestoga wagons rumbled across the Plains, it was the East that marked the frontier, the boundary between complex Native cultures and the first colonizing Europeans.
Here is the older, wilder, darker history of a time when the land between the Atlantic and the Appalachians was contested ground, when radically different societies adopted and adapted the ways of the other, while struggling for control of what all considered to be their land.”
“The First Frontier traces two and a half centuries of history through poignant, mostly unheralded personal stories, like that of a Harvard-educated Indian caught up in seventeenth-century civil warfare, a mixed-blood interpreter trying to straddle his white and Native heritage, and a Puritan woman wielding a scalping knife whose bloody deeds still resonate uneasily today. It is the first book in years to paint a sweeping picture of the Eastern frontier, combining vivid storytelling with the latest research to bring to life modern Americas tumultuous, uncertain beginnings.” (Global Books In Print)

Syndetics book coverAutumn in the Heavenly Kingdom : China, the West, and the epic story of the Taiping Civil War / Stephen R. Platt.
“By the 1850s, China’s Qing dynasty had held power for over 200 years, with peasants more and more having to endure privation, starvation, and disease. Ordinary Chinese believed the Qing, who were ethnic Manchu, were ineffective against “foreign devils” and in the Opium Wars with Britain. Enter Hong Xiuquan, failed civil servant and a convert to Christianity who believed he was Jesus’s brother. He set off the immense and brutal civil war known as the Taiping Rebellion and established the breakaway state of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Platt (history, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst), as his subtitle shows, prefers to call it a civil war, the most devastating in history, with over 20 million killed, with brutality on both sides. The rebels, the majority ethnic Han, had strength in their great discipline and fanaticism. They would take a city, then move to the countryside enlisting farmers to join the battle against ruling forces. The Qing ultimately crushed the rebellion with help from trading partners in the West. VERDICT Platt’s study of this era will be challenging for general audiences, but specialists and those seeking a serious study of the topic will appreciate it.” (Library Journal)

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New Zealand

This month’s recent picks showcases the variety of people who call New Zealand home, from Tāngata Whēnua to Irish immigrants to those of Jewish descent.

Syndetics book coverStones bones steam / Philip Andrews.
“Looks at Māori myths and landforms; power of ignimbrite eruptions; early geological exploration; past discoveries of moa, mosasaur and other fossils; the man who made artificial geysers; Rotorua’s great bores versus geysers controversy; and geology in verse” – (adapted from Back cover)

Syndetics book coverBog Irish Micks : the O’Brien family from Scariff : a family history / by Kath Woodley.
“Chronicles the families started by the five children of John O’Brien and Margaret Malone, all of whom left Scariff, Ireland for New Zealand between 1874 and 1883.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBishop Monrad in Aotearoa : Ditlev Gothard Monrad’s life and his legacy to New Zealand / edited by Ian Macfarlane ; [text edited by Robin Briggs].
“Monrad cam to Aotearoa New Zealand in 1866 and for almost most three years carried out the strenuous work of being a settler, clearing the land and establishing a farm in the Manawatū. In 1869 he returned to Denmark, but members of his family continued his pioneer work in New Zealand. Before he left , Monrad gave his treasured collection of prints of etchings and engravings by masters of European art to the government and people of New Zealand. This collection is help at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.” – (adapted from Back cover)

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