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Customer Review

271 of 291 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Long, boring and full of weird incongruous language, October 25, 2012
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This review is from: In the Land of the Long White Cloud (In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
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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Showing 1-10 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 9, 2013 6:49:12 AM PST
Kokopelli says:

Thanks for a helpful review, and especially thanks for calling out the translator for the anachronisms. I find anachronisms of any kind (speech, customs, anything) to be incredibly irritating, and they are far too common in today's writing. It's as though the authors (or translators, in this case) are so enmeshed in their own culture that they cannot possibly imagine times when the internet and twitter weren't around. In this case, I wonder if the author, who lives in Germany and presumably wrote the original in German, is aware of the liberties the translator took with her book. Maybe he translated it perfectly, and she used anachronisms in the German version. Anyway, thanks for mentioning it in your review, because it will save me from 800 pages of irritation.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 10:55:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 10:56:13 AM PST
M. Nicol says:
Hi there! If you are interested in non-fiction, one of my favourite authors is Anne Salmond - she has written about the earliest meetings between Maori and European, in 'Two Worlds' and 'Between Worlds', and is very readable. Also good is Michael King's 'History of New Zealand', which is regarded as pretty definitive. There are also a number of books made up of individual short biographies of early settlers, which have some fascinating detail. If you are looking at fiction, Jenny Pattrick, and also Fiona Kidman's historical books might be good reading for you, depending on what you enjoy. If you are interested in a Maori perspective rather than a European settler one, Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace would definitely be great authors to try :-)

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 11:33:15 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 11:38:33 AM PST
Wow thanks for your review. When I am not sure of a book, I always read the one star reviews first. Books are so expensive and even though this book is on sale today for 1.99, that's still a 1.99 less on my gift card that I won't get back. I'm so glad I read your review first because I would have been very upset if I had to endure 666 pages of, 'OMG LMAO I can't figure out that they didn't talk this way 150 years ago.....LOL'. I agree that no one expects Charlotte Bronte or Dickens. In fact I have to admit that sometimes I find real 19th century writing to be ponderous. However on the other hand, I don't want to read fiction set in the 19th centruy that sounds as if Snooky from Jersey Shore was the editor.

Interesting what Kokopelli above said...I wonder too, if the original German edition was written this way or did a clueless translator get their hands on it. Anyway thanks for the tip, I'll save my money for something good.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 4:54:07 PM PST
Really good historical fiction can introduce us to times and places we would never be able to visit in our own lifetimes. But the number one requirement for any fiction is that the writing does not take the reader out of the story.

Thank you for taking the time to outline just why this novel did not live up to your expectations, as I am now sure it cannot live up to mine. Wish I could help with recommendations, but the closest I can come is The Thorn Birds which was set in Australia - at least the same hemisphere.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 5:41:53 PM PST
Kokopelli says:
It's not about New Zealand, but I'll second S.M. Grigsby's recommendation of The Thorn Birds. What a lovely book! I don't read many books twice, but The Thorn Birds is one I have on my list to re-read.

Posted on Jan 11, 2013 11:27:43 AM PST
Laura says:
As far as engaging fiction set in New Zealand, Shayne Parkinson is the best. I've read all her books, not because they're set in N.Z but because they're riveting. "Daisy's War" is the only one I'd not wholeheartedly recommend but you're unlikely to start with that one as it's the fifth in a series that begins with "Sentence of Marriage": so so so good! (IMO)

Posted on Jan 18, 2013 4:03:52 AM PST
Haylien says:
She also claims the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1848 (actually 1840) and that the white New Zealanders call themselves 'kiwi' which wasn't in popular use until at least 100 years later! Wikipedia could have told her that!

The series by Shayne Parkinson is really good - first one being 'A sentence of Marriage' - hope that helps!

Posted on Jan 20, 2013 8:02:46 PM PST
J. Westbury says:
Hi Alan, I agree with all the criticisms of yours and other's comments. I have just finished the book and in spite of these errors I did enjoy the story. One other error was the use of currency - NZ did not use decimal currency (dollars and cents) until 1967. Until then it was sterling (pounds, shillings and pence). The twins were paid $1 each for their "dance" - what? That is equivalent to ten shillings, which was a full weeks pay when I left school in 1958!!!!! Wow, that was a huge pay for them. If it was 6d or even a shilling each it would have been more realistic. A really good book based on history but fictionalised, taken from an old diary, is "The Parihaka Woman" by Witi Ihimaera, available for Kindle.

Posted on Mar 10, 2013 10:23:31 AM PDT
B Zils says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Sep 7, 2013 4:34:38 PM PDT
HippolytaTS says:
Try Elizabeth Goudge's Green Dolphin Street. It was written in 1944 so you will get no annoying 21st Century-isms.
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