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           Home >  Regions  > Marlborough  :

Carol Dawber and River Press - a New Zealand author and a New Zealand publisher

Dorothy - 28/07/03

Discovering Carol Dawber and River Press has led me to some varied and interesting reading. Carol Dawber's writing is skilled and polished and the range of topics in her books is evidence of her versatility. She seems equally at home writing history and fiction. The Jacksons of Te Awaiti traces the lives of the members of that family from the time of whaler James Jackson and his wife through to the third generation of their descendants. It is a historical document showing the author's painstaking research and narrative skills. In contrast is Sounds Easy a mystery story set in the Marlborough Sounds. Marlborough and Nelson provide the setting for the books I have read, and the third book I have read is North of Kahurangi West of Golden Bay co-authored with Cheryl Win.

The Jacksons of Te Awaiti 2001
This book was commissioned by the organisers of the Jackson Reunion 2000 - a reunion of the descendants of whaler James Jackson and his wife Eliza Roil. This couple had nine children, and ninety grandchildren, so to write about them all has been a mammoth undertaking.

Carol Dawber acknowledges the help of family members who have done family research and lent their precious photographs for use in the book, and of archivists, museum curators and librarians in New Zealand and Canberra.

The theme of the Jackson family gives a clear structure and unity to this book, but it is far more than just a family history.

Why do I recommend that you read The Jacksons of Te Awaiti?
First, it held my interest from the beginning to the end of its nearly three hundred pages. Carol Dawber's polished style, narrative skill and gift of highlighting significant detail made it effortless reading.

Second, it is a valuable historical document, shedding light on the history of Marlborough and Nelson, the whaling industry, and the relationships between the whalers and the Maori in the area.

Third, it is a rich source of social history including interesting detail about the daily lives of people in Marlborough and elsewhere in New Zealand as family members moved to other parts of the country.

Fourth, it is a thoroughly researched and well organised volume, clearly set out with sources of material systematically acknowledged. Primary and secondary sources are footnoted through the text and the bibliography lists books, unpublished manuscripts and papers, and newspapers. There is an excellent general index and a further index of surnames which appear on the Jackson family tree. A compact disk included with each book contains all the genealogy collected up to the time of printing, Clear maps and charts are included.

Fifth, the text is illustrated by a magnificent range of photographs which bring alive the people in the text. I found it most interesting to read about people's lives and then study their faces.

North of Kahurangi West of Golden Bay 2001
This book, co-authored by Carol Dawber and Cheryl Win, features a large collection of clear black and white historical photos from the 1880s to the 1950s, and an interesting text. The material is well organised, being divided into chapters on gold mining, flaxmilling, the Kahurangi Lighthouse, farming on the coast, Westhaven Inlet, and mills and mines. Though the material is presented in relation to industries in the area many aspects of the lives of the people come to life through photos and text. Transport, the importance of horses, housing, fishing, hunting, clothes and hairstyles, cooking, picnicking, gardening, the impact of the 1929 Murchison Earthquake are just some of the aspects covered.

Other works of non-fiction
Carol Dawber has also written Bainham, a history, Awaroa Legacy, and Collingwood to the Heaphy Track.

Carol Dawber's fiction
Backtrack, Earthwork, and Sounds Easy are murder mysteries. Setting out to solve the mysteries are Wellington detective Doug Fisher and librarian Liz Gresham. Carol Dawber sets her novels in country she knows well - the Heaphy Track, Nelson, Picton and the Marlborough Sounds - and with an assured touch writes about people she understands - ordinary New Zealanders.

These novels provide excellent holiday reading for those who enjoy a murder mystery. I have read Sounds Easy and hope to find copies of the other two mysteries for my next Marlborough/Nelson holiday.

All these books are published by River Press.
Website www.bestbooks.org
Email riverpress@xtra.co.nz

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