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Book reviews: February 2021

3 min read

Pick of the month

An Exquisite Legacy
George Gibbs
Potton and Burton
Reviewed by Tony Orman

This book is the life and story of George Hudson (1867–1947), an amateur naturalist with a passion for insects, particularly butterflies and moths, whose contribution to New Zealand’s entomology was immense.

He published seven books on insects between 1892 and 1950 with the smallest on Neuroptera – that being of interest to trout fly fishers. Each book was illustrated in colour with immaculate artwork, totalling more than 3100 paintings.

Of course, other insects comprise trout food such as cicadas. George Hudson wrote of 21 species of cicadas as known to him at the time.

One mayfly species, New Zealand’s largest mayfly species, was named Ichthybotus hudsoni in honour of this talented and passionate man.

An Exquisite Legacy was written by George Hudson’s grandson Dr George Gibbs also a prominent entomologist and author of the outstanding book Ghosts of Gondwana.

In An Exquisite Legacy, Gibbs has compiled an absorbing and warm biography of his grandfather, topped by a superb job by the publisher.

More good reads

The Nine Lives of Kitty K
Margaret Mills
Mary Egan Publishing
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

This fact-based fictional account follows the life of Kitty Kirk (1855–1930), who lived an unconventional lifestyle in Otago, particularly around the Queenstown region.

The daughter of a pregnant Irish lass who was shipped out to New Zealand to avoid damaging her family’s reputation. Through the book, we follow the mum and her baby Kitty as she grows to maturity, through to marriage, family tragedy, all the way through to her eventual demise. The writing itself took some getting used to, as the character development was quite sterile and the build-up to significant events was not told as well as it could have been.

Having said that, it must be recognised that the author is not a professional storyteller and her long labour of love now gives a voice to a special person.

Although it may take some effort to reach the end, Kitty K is a person worth knowing and understanding.

The Last Days of John Lennon
James Patterson
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

Anyone familiar with the assassination of John Lennon will wonder what motivated Mark Chapman to put those slugs in the back of a musical icon all those years ago.

Fiction writer James Patterson along with a couple of helpers has put together a plausible telling of the events leading up to Lennon’s death. The story starts right back with the formation of The Beatles and is cleverly paralleled with a ‘current’ Mark Chapman timeline.

Like almost all of Patterson’s novels, we know what happens at the end, but the see-sawing between the two timelines that eventually converge are full of intrigue and it is all told so well.

A Bright Ray of Darkness
Ethan Hawke
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

There wouldn’t be many who would agree Ethan Hawke is the real deal when it comes to the big screen. What many may not know is that he is also a talented writer, having turned out this his fourth book.

Focussed around a well-known actor who has been caught out cheating on his rock star (she actually is a rock star) wife, his marriage implodes at the same time he is about to make his debut in a Broadway play. Actually, it isn’t a bad tale and I’m sure Ethan channelled his previous experiences on stage and screen.

It’s readable and all quite believable.

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