Over the Wide and Trackless Sea

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Over the Wide and Trackless Sea

By Megan Hutching

ISBN13: 9781869507060

RRP $39.99




During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, European settlers travelled to New Zealand from distant shores over treacherous seas to build new lives here.

In early histories of Pakeha settlement many of the women were unknown; they stayed silent and few were known by name.  Through extensive research, acclaimed historian Megan Hutching brings to life the lives of eleven pioneer women and girls of New Zealand.

"I chose these eleven women and girls because together their stories illuminate some of the many strands that have gone into weaving the fabric of this country's history.' Megan says.

Megan Hutching gives an insight and understanding of these women's lives, whose hardships are difficult to comprehend.  Most of these women left the security of a familiar way of life to endure a difficult journey that involved sickness and suffering.  Once in New Zealand, they survived numerous emotional and natural disasters - the deaths of their children, along with fire, snow storms, earth quakes and floods.

From Dalmatian, Britain and Denmark, these women ended up settling from the far north to the far south of New Zealand.  Whether gum-diggers in North Auckland, whaling station wives, or sheep station owners in Canterbury, they broke in an untamed land, and raised families, while performing their daily domestic duties.

Megan elaborates: 'I wanted to give readers some idea of what it was like to be a woman in nineteenth-century New Zealand by using their own words, if it was possible.  I was lucky that there were diaries and memoirs written by some of the women in the book, and these first-hand accounts brought the women to life.

I like reading about people, as it makes me remember that history is the story of people and their actions, and most of the people in history are quite ordinary people like the women in this book.  I wanted readers to be able to read about individual women, their trials and triumphs - and place their experiences in the context of the time in which they were living.  Their lives went mostly unremarked, but they are remarkable lives because of the experiences they had.'

About the Author

Megan Hutching has produced six books of oral histories of the Second World War, in the ‘New Zealanders Remember’ series, including most recently, Last Line of Defence: New Zealanders Remember the War at Home.  Her first major piece of research was on women opposed to war in New Zealand in the early twentieth century, and this sparked her abiding interest in writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary women.



I have never been one to read history texts for leisure so was pleasantly surprised to discover that Over the Wide and Trackless Sea is anything but your stuffy, purely factual account of the past.  More like a compilation of short stories, this book draws the reader in by giving life and voice to the seemingly emotionless women depicted in many of the fading black and white images on display in museums and history books alike.

Megan Hutching paints a personal and moving picture of what life was like for the pioneering women and girls of New Zealand through excerpts taken directly from their diaries, memoirs and letters.  Whilst it is difficult for many of us to comprehend the extent of their hardships, we can certainly relate to the pain and sorrow they suffered throughout their journeys and settlement in a foreign and newly inhabited land.

Reading the stories in Over the Wide and Trackless Sea and hearing the voices of these ordinary yet remarkable women will give you a new-found appreciation for the people who gave birth to the New Zealand we know today.



Reviewed by: Franciska



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