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VINE VOICEon August 17, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It was very difficult for me to decide how many stars to give this book. I was vasillating between 3, 4, or 5 stars, and as you can see, five won.

This is a long book (815 pages), and the pages are bigger than the normal size paperbacks you usually see. So this was not my usual 1 or 2 evening book! I alternately enjoyed and suffered through this book for about five days.

The story centers around the lives of two young women who travel to New Zealand to meet their respective future husbands. The circumstances surrounding their marriage arrangements are, a lost poker game on the part of the wealthy young woman's father, and a personals ad answered by the other young woman (a respectable school teacher). The two women meet and become good friends during the boat voyage to New Zealand.

Each woman has hopes and dreams, but of course the happy, comfortable lives they envision do not come to pass. There are animosities between their new families, but the women still manage to see each other often and remain friends. This is one of the few blessings in the story, as there are hardships, tragedies, and one difficulty after another. I didn't know whether to applaud their endurance, or become frustrated at their inability to escape their situations.

The ending was somewhat satisfying, but of course it was also interlaced with tragedy. But by this time you pretty much expect that. So I guess it really wouldn't have been believable any other way.

The reason I was leaning toward fewer stars, is mainly because I felt a little dark cloud around me during the days I was reading this book. Like most everyone, I have lived through my own difficulties and tragedies. So why on earth would I want to relive the fictional hardships of others? I guess I just kept hoping that things would get better. I know, good novels need a variety of elements. But this was just page after page, and chapter after chapter of bad crap going down. There is probably a 20-plus year span, as far as the timing of the story goes. I actually liked it when they jumped ahead a couple of years here and there. I almost felt relief, like at least there was nothing bad to report there!

But there I was, every chance I got, reading about the lives of these two women who had captured my heart. For that reason, I chose five stars. Also, I truly believe that this is a book most will like.
That being said, I would now think twice about enduring another story of this type. Been there, done that!
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on October 7, 2012
As a New Zealander living in Christchurch I was looking forward to reading a good historical novel about New Zealand. What I got was a novel very loosely based upon the settlement of the Canterbury Province in New Zealand but so full of errors that it made me cringe - incorrect spelling of Maori names, american spelling and terminology and really basic errors such as the currency used at the time (pounds, shillings and pence NOT the dollars and cents used in the book). The storyline was predictable and slow and the characterisation quite shallow. Not a book I would recommend.
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VINE VOICEon October 25, 2012
This book begins in 1852 and ends in 1877 -- and yet the characters all speak as if they were stuck in 2007. I don't know if this is because of the translation -- but this book sets a record for incongruity.

Consider the following: "Lucas inquired about the cultural scene in London."

"Gwyneira was blown away when she heard about Laurie and Mary."

"The wild seemed a cafeteria for him."

"She called it their wilderness survival game."

"It's such a wonderful party." James looked at her probingly ... "Spiced with a good does of schadenfreude," she sighed.

And my favorite: ""No, no that's for crazies who have nothing to lose. And back then, I already had Olivia and the boys - so I wasn't about to slug it out with giant fish that would have just wanted to get me by the throat. It makes me a little sorry for the critters."

Incidentally, the word "schadenfreude," meaning delight in the misfortunes of others, first showed up in English in an obscure publication in 1852: R. C. Trench Study of Words (ed. 3) II. 29. "What a fearful thing it is that any language should have a word expressive of the pleasure which men feel at the calamities of others, for the existence of the word bears testimony to the existence of the thing. And yet in more than one is such a word to be found ... In Greek epichairekakia, in the German, 'Schadenfreude'."

But here we have characters in New Zealand using it in the 1860s. AMAZING.

The word "cafeteria" entered American English (not English English) from the Spanish around 1839.

I don't expect a book set in the 19th century to read as if it were written by Charlotte Bronte or Charles Dickens. But I don't expect the characters to express themselves like high school kids from the 21st century either.

The story concerns English immigrants to New Zealand and all their troubles. The main characters are staid governess Helen who becomes the mail order bride of a drunken farmer and the spirited Gwyneira who married artistic, effete Lucas, a man whose sexual desires, barely acknowledged, run toward the male sex. They and their sheep and dogs and horses mate with various degrees of willingness and produce offspring who continue the story.

There is a whole cast of other totally one-dimensional characters and we live and suffer along with them through many hundreds of pages -- those of us who stick to the task. Its a slog almost as daunting as the 12-mile bridle path the immigrants have to climb when they first set ashore in New Zealand.

My appetite has been whetted about the history of this far-off nation and I'm now on the lookout for a good book, fiction or non-fiction, that brings it to life -- because this book isn't it. Any recommendations would be welcome.
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on August 22, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In the Land of the Long White Cloud is an extremely long-winded novel about two young women who leave England for new lives in New Zealand in the 1800s. Covering several decades, the book is 75% historical fiction and 25% romance novel, and while it's not completely without merit, it is certainly not a stellar example of either genre.

The attention to detail regarding sheep ranching, the occupation of many of the main characters, helps the reader to imagine life in colonial New Zealand. Unfortunately, the effect is ruined by dialogue (of which there is much) that is flat and jarringly anachronistic. If one reads just the characters' spoken words, it would be utterly impossible to guess that the book is set over 100 years ago, rather than the current day.

The characters are reasonably well-developed, but unfortunately the author uses only a limited number of molds so they are mostly interchangeable. The majority of the characters are either strong-willed, plucky, but unlucky women or mean-spirited, misogynistic men, with a few nice but largely unattainable men for the women to fall in love with. There are a couple of notable exceptions, but the most interesting of them is killed halfway through the story.

I wouldn't recommend this book unless you have a particular interest in New Zealand during the 1800s. It's too long to be a quick and easy read, and not good enough to warrant the time it takes to finish it.
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on June 30, 2014
**Note: this review contains some SPOILERS**

I'll start with the positives:
I'm really happy that I got this book through the Kindle Owner's Lending library and did not pay for it. I had downloaded the sample last month and instantly got hooked, and could not wait for June 1 to arrive so that I could finish reading this book.

The story starts with promise. It begins in London in the 1850's with two young women brought up in very different circumstances, whose futures appear bleak and they decide to emigrate to New Zealand to begin new lives. I was engrossed with the characters right from the start. You get a sense of who they are and the impossible circumstances they face as women in the 1800's with little say and control over their own lives. The theme in the first part of the story is hope and I found myself rooting for them and excited as if it were my own journey. The author does do a beautiful job fleshing out the characters and the descriptions of their lives and the landscape around them.

Then they arrive in New Zealand and the story quickly goes downhill from there.

The turning point for me was the immediate personality transplant in one of the main characters (Gerald) who from charismatic to sociopath in the blink of an eye, followed by the realization that these women had been fed some serious kool-aid about the colony and the people they were to spend their lives with. Of course in any story you need villains as well obstacles and tragedy to make it compelling, so I wasn't expecting all sunshine and rainbows. I just wasn't expecting that things would become so awful so quickly and then never really get better throughout this VERY long book.

The remainder of the story centers around the crappy marriages that these women have been duped into. One of them figures it out right away, but of course she has no recourse and despairs as things go from bad to worse for her. The other woman's story is equally deplorable. Ultimately, I just gave up. Watching these two plucky, strong women transform into browbeaten victims depressed me to the point that I skipped through several parts to the end, hoping for some redemption. Which leads me to the thing I hate most about this book, aside from the rampant homophobia, sexual abuse and other awful themes that dominate the last 600 pages, is that the ending is left open so you don't know their ultimate fates. This book is part of a trilogy, but the next one skips ahead a few generations and frankly I don't think I can slog through another one to find out.

As a warning to readers, if you're looking for a feel-good romance or a story about overcoming all odds, this book isn't it. For those of a delicate nature there are some graphic depictions of rape, child slavery, child prostitution and animal abuse, as well as the above-mentioned homophobic attitudes and overall misogyny, racism, and poor treatment of the female characters. I get that these were the ways of those times, but it's not an easy read.
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on January 9, 2013
The story line for this book was OK, but could have been really good if the setting for the book has been researched properly. There were many mistakes which were really made because it was written by someone who had no concept of the history or geography of the country that it was set in. There were mistakes in the Maori words as well - in particular the word for man is not tana but tane. Nitpicking I know but overall I found the book frustrating because it could have been done so much better.
I feel sad that there are so many mistakes in the book. My country deserves better.
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on December 15, 2012
I began really enjoying this book but the further I read, the more I realised that for an historical novel, the author did not manage to portray the era with complete authenticity in the way she writes. The characters were speaking in current style language and this is very disconcerting when it is supposed to be New Zealand in the mid 1800s. Naturally the novel would not be readable if the language was totally Victorian, but American useage such as 'blown away', "playful lace curtains" does not give the novel historical credibility.
The author has done some good research on sheep farming in New Zealand but there are also numerous things that are not historically correct, including.......New Zealand in those days used Pounds, not dollars for the currency, New Zealanders do not say "fall"- autumn is the correct terminology. As it was a mainly Scottish and British Colony, coffee was not common as most people drank tea. NB: Not just Americans download books from Amazon but people such as me, an Australian who frequently visits our close neighbour New Zealand, do too.

I have been reading historical novels all my life and like many fans of this genre, like the novel to reflect the chosen era with more attention to historically correct detail. Sarah Lark's writing flows well and her style is good. I will be looking for more of her novels in the future.
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on May 23, 2013
This book was absolutely appalling for its inaccuracies on the early days of the South Island of New Zealand especially South Canterbury and further south to Queenstown. Hope nobody wants to use it as a reference book! New Zealand did not have 'dollars' (decimal currency until the 10 July 1967 so where did the 'dollars' come from? So much misuse of the Maori language - name of the largest South Island Maori tribe - driving time for the distance that Gwyneira covered by horse in approx. 5 hours takes about 3.5 - 4.00 hours by modern vehicle on roads (some are still unsealed). This book portrays a false image of the era and as such I wish I had saved my money for another book. If Sarah wants to write fictional historic books about the early days of New Zealand and the beautiful South Island I would suggest she makes a visit here and studies the facts with local historians. A very laborious task to finish this book.
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VINE VOICEon August 15, 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"In the Land of the Long White Cloud" is an amazing story of love and friendship.
The setting for this story is New Zealand, 1850s. Helen Davenport and Gwyneira Silkham are young, unwed English women from different backgrounds. Helen has to work to support her siblings. Gwyneira is the daughter of a wealthy sheep breeder. One fateful trip brings them together. As they start their lives in a new country, it is apparent this may not be the life of which they dreamed. However, they are strong women, not afraid of hard work or harsh living conditions.

I really enjoyed how the characters are intertwined, even the four-legged ones. It is obvious that the author, Sarah Lark, is an animal lover. Even though there is much sorrow and hardship for Helen and Gwyneira, at the end of the story I was left feeling hopeful.

The only issue I had with the story was the passage of time. Some of the years went by too fast. The story was so compelling; I wanted to read more about the years that were passed over.

I would recommend this book to any reader 16 or older. (Some of the subject matter is not suitable for younger readers.) This book was originally published in German and has been translated into English by D W Lovett.
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on June 22, 2014
I like historical fictions usually because they are clean and represent a less complicated time. I had no idea this would be filled with sex, rape, molestation, homosexual sex, and so much garbage. One more reason to be picky when buying electronic books! You can't browse through it like a hardcopy. The thing is, the author wrote well, so I got hooked until about the middle when everything went south. So sad.
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