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Biography/memoir

A B C D E F H I M O P R S T W Y

A

A Deserter's Adventures
Dom Felice Vaggioli wrote this autobiography between 1909 and 1911, after the publication in Italy of his History of New Zealand and its Inhabitants. One of the first Benedictine monks to be sent to New Zealand, he arrived in 1879 and returned home in 1887, having worked in Gisborne, Auckland and the Coromandel. The manuscript remained in the archives of Viaggioli's monastery and was never published. It was found by John Crockett while researching the background to his translation of the History. Its New Zealand section is published here for the first time, with an essay by historian Rory Sweetman.

A Gift of Stories
The life stories in this book are by people who, at some point in their lives, have been diagnosed with a mental illness which they have learned to deal with. They have found the courage to speak publicly about their experience in a world which is still prejudiced against people with mental illness.

A Snake in the Shrine
David Geraghty taught English and travelled in Japan for three years in the late 1990s. This book is a wonderfully entertaining record of some of his experiences.

A Southern Architecture
The forms of Ted McCoy’s houses can recall the early stone and mud brick buildings of the colonial era in Otago, as this region has been both his locus and his inspiration.

A Strange Beautiful Excitement: 
Katherine Mansfield's Wellington

How does a city make a writer? Described by Fiona Kidman as a ‘ravishing, immersing read’, A Strange Beautiful Excitement is a ‘wild ride’ through the Wellington of Katherine Mansfield’s childhood. 
From the grubby, wind-blasted streets of Thorndon to the hushed green valley of Karori, author Redmer Yska, himself raised in Karori, retraces Mansfield’s old ground: the sights, sounds and smells of the rickety colonial capital, as experienced by the budding writer.

A Theatre in the House
For most of the 1960s, Dunedin's Globe Theatre was the most important thing happening in serious New Zealand theatre. In this book, Rosalie Carey tells the story of the theatre in its Carey years.

Amassing Treasures for All Times
Sir George Grey, governor of New Zealand, South Australia and the Cape Colony, was an outstanding British colonial statesman in the nineteenth century. This study sheds light on the genius and magnanimity of an increasingly controversial figure, demonstrating the complex humanity underlying his apparent remoteness.

Among Secret Beauties
Climbing entered the world stage in the 1950s: this was the era that produced not only Sir Edmund Hillary but a strong body of world-class New Zealand climbers. In this important and dramatic book Brian Wilkins, who was part of the adventure, shares his experiences of climbing in the Southern Alps and the Himalayas.

Annie’s War
Annie’s War is a remarkable book. There have been many published collections of soldiers’ diaries and letters from the First World War, but never a first-hand account of one New Zealand family’s life in England during these challenging and frightening years.

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B

Beyond the Scene
What contribution does landscape make to our sense of identity? For Beyond the Scene the editors asked eleven writers to choose a landscape that was important to them and to write it from the perspective of their life experience and knowledge. From farmer to art historian and film critic, geographer and planner to lawyer, from landscape architect to poet and environmentalist – these are diverse voices.

Books and Boots
A.H. Reed's enduring contribution to his adopted homeland was as a publisher, writer and benefactor, but he is also fondly remembered by many as a long-distance walker. This biography offers an engaging portrait of 'Alf', his love of Belle, his ceaseless activity and his many contributions to the wider community. It includes a bibliography of his works and is profusely illustrated.

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C

Casting Off: a memoir
Elspeth Sandys’ refreshing honesty and her skill as a writer of fiction and drama propel the reader through an absorbing life story that is equally a commentary on the meaning of memoir and the peculiarities of memory.

Charles Brasch Journals 1945–1957

This volume of Charles Brasch’s journals covers the years from late 1945 to the end of 1957, when the poet and editor was aged 36 to 48. It begins with his return to New Zealand after World War II to establish a literary quarterly to be published by the Caxton Press. The journals cover the first decade or so of his distinguished editorship of Landfall, a role that brought Brasch into contact with New Zealand’s leading artists and intelligentsia.

Charles Brasch: Journals 1938–1945
For most of his adult life, Charles Brasch’s most intimate companion was his diary. In these journals, written in London during the Second World War, he is a young man searching for answers. Is he a pacifist? Should he join the army? Is he homosexual? Should he marry? Should he return home to New Zealand when the war ends? Are his poems any good? Some questions are resolved in the course of the journals, others not, but it all makes compelling reading.

Curved Horizon
At a time when Brasch, Fairburn, Glover and other spoke bitterly of the lack of support given to New Zealand artists, how did a single woman from Southland live and work as a writer, establishing herself as a poet and author of international regard? In Curved Horizon Dallas recounts her remarkable life with the insight and assurance we expect from this most accomplished poet.

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D

Detours
Summer, 1981. A youngish Neville Peat set out from Cape Reinga on his imported 10-speed bike ‘Blue’, aiming to cycle through small-town New Zealand from north to south, all the way to Stewart Island. The week before Easter, he reached his destination. He wrote a book about it, Detours: A journey through small-town New Zealand, which sold lots of copies and was broadcast on radio. Many times in the intervening years, usually on anniversaries of the journey – 10 years, 15 years, 20 years – he wished to try a repeat journey, but life held other challenges. Now, as a leading author and in the age of the personal computer and cell phone, a very different world, he has revisited many of the towns and regions, not on a bicycle, but by car. In Detours – A generation on, he reflects once again on how small-town New Zealand is doing.

Diplomatic Ladies
Diplomatic Ladies tells the inside story of New Zealand’s diplomatic wives and daughters over a hundred years of diplomacy. Based on private letters, MFAT archives and personal interviews, it records many unknown episodes in New Zealand’s diplomatic history, including the part played by the spouses in Baghdad during the first Gulf War, and the perils faced by diplomatic wives in Saigon and Tehran. It also gives a unique insight into the workings of diplomatic life and the role of the diplomatic hostess.

Doctors in Denial
Published by Otago University Press, 'Doctors in Denial' is a gripping inside account of professional arrogance and denial written by one of the doctors who exposed the truth about ‘the unfortunate experiment’ at National Women’s Hospital.

Dumont d’Urville
Explorer Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville (1790–1842) is sometimes called France’s Captain Cook. Born less than a year after the beginning of the French Revolution, he lived through turbulent times. He was an erudite polymath: a maritime explorer fascinated by botany, entomology, ethnography and the diverse languages of the world.

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E

Eyewitness
In 1932, Geoffrey Cox travelled to Britain to take up a Rhodes Scholarship. First as a student, then as a journalist, Cox became an eyewitness to events which have since become history: Hitler's rise to power in Germany, the Spanish Civil War, Stalin's brutal collectivisation of agriculture. Rich in detail, Cox's elegantly written prose offers a ringside seat to major 20th century events. This is a memorable memoir by one of the world's premier journalists.

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F

Facing the Music
The Triad was founded in 1893 and ran into the late 1920s. For its first 22 years it was published in New Zealand, but in 1915 publication was transferred to Sydney where it was re-launched as an Australasian magazine. The magazine offered well-informed coverage of cultural activities in New Zealand, Australia and internationally in a broad mix of critical and original writing. Notoriously outspoken, Baeyertz was feared and respected as a critic. His music criticism was particularly intelligent and rigorous, making no concessions to personality or amateur or professional status. His later co-editor, the self-styled ‘decadent’ Frank Morton, was equally candid. This is an engaging biography of a fascinating man which also throws new light on a long-neglected period of New Zealand’s cultural past.

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H

Hocken
Dr Thomas Morland Hocken (1836–1910) arrived in Dunedin in 1862, aged 26. Throughout his busy life as a medical practitioner he amassed books, manuscripts, sketches, maps and photographs of early New Zealand. Much of his initial collecting focused on the early discovery narratives of James Cook; along with the writings of Rev. Samuel Marsden and his contemporaries; Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the New Zealand Company; and Māori, especially in the south. He gifted his collection to the University of Otago in 1910. Hocken was a contemporary of New Zealand’s other two notable early book collectors, Sir George Grey and Alexander Turnbull. In this magnificent piece of research, a companion volume to his Amassing Treasures for All Times: Sir George Grey, colonial bookman and collector, Donald Kerr examines Hocken’s collecting activities and his vital contribution to preserving the history of New Zealand’s early post-contact period.

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I

In a Slant Light
In this absorbing poetic memoir of her early life, Cilla McQueen, one of New Zealand’s major women poets, leads us over the stepping stones of childhood memory, some half submerged, some strong and glinting in the light of her wit. With humour and openness, clarity and grace, the memoir continues through her teenage years and the excitement and turbulence, the expansion and vulnerability, of university days and early motherhood in the 1960s and 1970s ... raising a young child alone, falling in love with Ralph Hotere and witnessing his deeply immersive artistic practice ... This account of the life of an extraordinary verbal artist is immensely warm and welcoming: time falls away as we read. The lightness of Cilla’s touch coupled with the grit of her endurance through challenging personal circumstances makes the reader feel privileged to be invited in to the quiet wisdom worn here with both integrity and modesty. From the sweet shocks of her imagery to the joy of recognition of many shared experiences of a New Zealand childhood, this memoir brings a honeyed, sensitive yet utterly resilient voice in our local literature as close as the voice of a good friend. This is a book not only for those who love Cilla McQueen’s poetry, but for anyone fascinated by the social, artistic and literary history of New Zealand.

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M

Marilynn Webb
An outstanding artist and art educator, Marilynn Webb gained international stature as a print-maker early in her career. Working as an art adviser in Northland and Auckland she created memorable images that were instantly recognisable as coming from her hand. Less well-known are her pastel drawings, a development in her work after she moved to Dunedin in 1974 to take up a Frances Hodgkin Fellowship. She has created several brilliant series based on New Zealand's southern wilderness areas: Lake Mahinerangi, the Ida Valley, Fiordland and Stewart Island in particular. Her work makes us aware that we are always in the landscape, and draws us into the environmental and social issues surrounding it.

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O

Oceanian Journeys and Sojourns
Oceanian Journeys and Sojourns focuses on how Pacific Island peoples – Oceanians – think about a range of journeys near and far: their meanings, motives and implications. In addition to addressing human mobility in various island locales, these essays deal with the interconnections of culture, identity and academic research among indigenous Pacific peoples that have emerged from the contributors’ personal observations and fieldwork encounters. Firmly grounded in the human experience, this edited work offers insights into the development of new knowledge in and of the Pacific. More than half the authors are themselves Oceanians and five of twelve essays are by island women.

Operation Vietnam
New Zealand has a long and honourable record of sending health service personnel to trouble spots around the world. Michael Shackleton was an energetic and determined pioneer. In 1963 he established and led a New Zealand surgical team in Qui Nhon, Vietnam. Until East Timor, this was New Zealand's biggest ever overseas medical operation and was sustained until 1975.

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P

Painting Myself In
Expressing oneself through creativity can be an immensely challenging and satisfying experience. Nina Mariette, a survivor of childhood abuse, uses painting to make sense of her past, and tells her story with pictures and words in this book.

Passageways
The author’s eight great grandparents all arrived in New Zealand between 1858 and 1868. Their family names were Harrop, Sales, Campbell, Brown, Valentine, Maxwell, Jefcoate and Oliver. She looks at their reasons for migration, how they fared once settled, and at their participation in gold-digging, farming, road-making, school-teaching and surveying. Both of her parents were graduates of Canterbury University and A.J. Harrop was a respected New Zealand historian.

Pickerill
Founding Director of University of Otago Dental School at the age of twenty-eight, only eighteen months after completing his medical and dental studies at the University of Birmingham, was just one of Henry Percy Pickerill’s achievements in a highly productive life. His research and writing on dental caries were internationally significant and helped lay the foundations for the School Dental Service in New Zealand. His work on facial and jaw reconstructions at Sidcup Hospital in England during the First World War established him as one of the pioneers of plastic surgery.

Polly Plum: A firm and earnest woman’s advocate


Polly Plum is a biography of one of New Zealand’s earliest feminists, Mary Ann Colclough, whose publicly voiced opinions saw her described in the nineteenth century as ‘our own little stray strap of a modern female fanatic’. In this fine biography, Jenny Coleman argues that Mary Ann Colclough’s contribution to the women’s movement in nineteenth-century New Zealand is at least equal to that of Kate Sheppard.

Promised New Zealand
Promised New Zealand is the true tale of refugees who fled Nazi terror in Europe for a safe haven on the opposite side of the world – New Zealand.

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R

Reconstructing Faces
The two world wars played an important role in the evolution of plastic and maxillofacial surgery in the first half of the 20th century. This book is about four of the key figures involved. Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe were born in Dunedin; McIndoe and Rainsford Mowlem studied medicine at the University of Otago Medical School, and Henry Pickerill was foundation Dean of the University of Otago Dental School. The author describes how these surgeons revolutionised plastic surgery and the treatment of facial trauma, working on soldiers, fighter pilots and civilians disfigured by bombs, shrapnel and burns.

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S

Standing My Ground
For more than five decades, Alan Mark has been a voice for conservation in New Zealand. From his call in the 1960s for the establishment of tussock-grassland reserves in the South Island high country to his involvement in the 2011–13 campaign to save the Denniston Plateau from mining, he has been a passionate and effective advocate for the preservation of areas of ecological importance. Alan’s conservation activities have paralleled – and are informed by – a distinguished academic career as a botanist and ecologist. A member of Otago University’s Botany Department from 1955 until his retirement as Professor and Head of Department in 1998, he has run and participated in numerous research projects, taught and mentored thousands of students and published 200 academic papers. In 'Standing My Ground', Alan describes the challenges and achievements, the frustrations and successes that have made up his remarkable life, now in its ninth decade. A revered figure in the conservation movement, rewarded for his contribution by a knighthood in 2009, he has also endured his share of criticism and insult, which he has weathered with the support of Otago University and his family. As well as providing an important record of New Zealand’s conservation battles and documenting the life of an outstanding New Zealander, 'Standing My Ground' is an inspiring reminder of the power of individuals to make a difference.

Stunning debut of the
repairing of a life

SIMPLE BROKEN BEAUTIFUL is the title on a notebook of poetry written by Leigh Davis in 2008. This was during radiotherapy treatment following surgery for a brain tumour, which was affecting his ability to express himself in words. The notebook writing was the beginning of a work that developed into a long poem called 'Stunning debut of the repairing of a life'. The resulting manuscript won The Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry 2009, judged by Ian Wedde.

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T

Taking My Mother to the Opera
Piquant, frank, open, wistful, tender, funny ... this personal memoir by Diane Brown is deftly ‘marbled’ throughout with social history. From carefully chosen anecdotes it slowly unfolds a vivid and compelling sense of character and the psychological dynamics within the family. Many readers will recognise the New Zealand so vividly portrayed here, as Brown marshals deeply personal events and childhood memories in a delightfully astute, understated poetic form.

The Case of the Missing Body
'The Case of the Missing Body' is the true and unusual story of Lily, who has no sense of her body. She has struggled with the effects of this her whole life. Desperate to try anything to ‘be normal’, a nevertheless sceptical Lily agrees to begin work with her physiotherapist in a gymnasium. One extraordinary day, working in the gym, Lily discovers she has shoulder blades. All her life she has thought people only felt their heads, with thoughts trailing along in and behind them. Now she has shoulder blades. There is nothing easy about what is to follow. Neither Patrick (the physiotherapist) nor Lily could have predicted it. But with help from professionals, the writer of this beautiful, moving memoir becomes her own detective, searching for clues to help her find her own body.

The Prison Diary of A.C. Barrington
A.C. (Archie) Barrington was a leading New Zealand pacifist during World War 2. Incarcerated in Mount Crawford Prison for his beliefs in 1941, he kept an illicit diary, scrawled in the margins of books. Many years later his son John happened across the diary and painstakingly reconstructed it. Such documents are exceptionally rare – until recent times prisoners were not allowed to keep any record of their experiences and many were illiterate anyway. Barrington vividly and compellingly recorded the squalid, rundown conditions, monotonous and exhausting labour, the intense cold from which there was little protection, and the strategies he and his fellow pacifists adopted to enable them to cope with prison life. John Pratt has edited the diary and provides a fascinating commentary on the issues it raises in relation to prison life then and now. He also addresses a fundamental question – what were Barrington and his like doing in prison, when similar expressions of dissent would almost certainly have been ignored in Australia or Britain? Why was New Zealand, with its ‘fair go’, egalitarian reputation, so intolerant and punitive? Pratt chronicles a history of intolerance, suspicion and deep-seated antipathies that may go some way towards explaining the current penal saturation in this ‘friendly’ land.

The Real McKay
The Scot Alexander McKay arrived in New Zealand in 1863 at the age of 26 with just two full years of schooling. Seeking his fortune on the goldfields of the South Island, he developed an eye for the structure and history of the land. Ten years later, he attracted the interest of the pioneer geologist Julius Haast, founder of the Canterbury Museum, who offered him his first job in geology, as a field assistant and collector of fossils for the displays of the fledgling museum.

The Story of a New Zealand Writer
Who was Jane Mander? Why did she write The Story of a New Zealand River? Many people know the book, but few know anything of the writer. Rae McGregor has drawn a rich absorbing portrair of Mander – from her early years in the north, to Sydney socialist, New York intellectual, London writer, and home again as Auckland critic and literary personality.

The Urewera Notebook
Katherine Mansfield filled the first half of her ‘Urewera Notebook’ during a 1907 camping tour of the central North Island, shortly before she left New Zealand forever. Her camping notes offer a rare insight into her attitude to her life at the time, and her country of birth, not in retrospective fiction but as a 19-year-old still living in the colony. This publication is the first scholarly edition of the ‘Urewera Notebook’. It provides an original transcription, a collation of the alternative readings and textual criticism of prior editors, and new information about the politics, people and places Mansfield encountered on her journey. As a whole, this edition challenges the debate that has focused on Mansfield’s happiness or dissatisfaction throughout her last year in New Zealand to reveal a young writer closely observing aspects of a country hitherto beyond her experience and forming a complex
critique of her colonial homeland.

The Writer at Work
Into this volume C.K. Stead gathers a selection of his essays from the past decade, mixing literary criticism with autobiography. He reviews the work of other writers, meditates on the teaching of literature, revisits some controversies and explores literary history. Always interesting, the essays travel through time and space – from Janet Frame, to Barry Humphries' birthday, to Paul Theroux and telling the truth, to Shelley's Constantia – on a brilliant carpet of scholarship and wit.

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What Lies Beneath
Writer Elspeth Sandys was born during the Second World War, spent the first nine months of her life in the Truby King Karitane Hospital in Dunedin, and was adopted into the Somerville family at the age of nine months. What Lies Beneath: A Memoir is the story of her search for her birth parents. What she discovered provided answers that were both disturbing and, ultimately, rewarding. This is a searing, amusing, and never less than gripping tale of a difficult life, beautifully told.

William Colenso
Born in Penzance in 1811, Colenso was perhaps the most interesting of New Zealand's early missionaries. A Church Missionary Society printer, he established the first printing press, was our first printer and printed the first book, 5000 copies of the New Testament in Maori, 365 pages in extent, in 1837. Next came 27,000 copies of the Book of Common Prayer in Maori.

Witi Ihimaera
Witi Ihimaera is one of New Zealand's best-known and most loved writers. Author of seven volumes of fiction – including the award-winning Pounamu, Pounamu, Tangi and The Matriarch – he has also written essays, editorials, and an opera, Waituhi.

Women and Children Last
A sea voyage in the nineteenth century was not for the faint-hearted. The hazards were many and accidents commonplace. Of the ways a ship might meet its end, destruction by fire was perhaps the most feared. Wooden sailing vessels were particularly vulnerable and without breathing apparatus it was next to impossible to fight a fire below decks.

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Y

Your Unselfish Kindness
Robin Hyde’s extraordinary but short life (1906–1939) included a precocious early career as poet and parliamentary reporter. As a journalist, she juggled writing for the social pages with highly political reporting on unemployment, prison conditions and the alienation of Māori land. She struggled with drug addiction and depression, single motherhood twice over, and a lengthy period as a voluntary patient in a residential clinic (The Lodge) attached to Auckland Mental Hospital in Avondale. Her life culminated in brilliant reporting on the Sino/Japanese War following a journey into China in 1938.