This is a book of memories. Some of them are my own. Some of them belong to others. They are as true and as fallible as any memories - distorted by time and distance and a writer's choice of words.
Ben Brown writes of that quintessentially New Zealand way of living that may not change the world or even ripple its waters, but is replete with meaning.
Gathered from the tobacco-green valleys of the Motueka River where he grew up during the 60s and 70s, Brown's memoire is rich with a sense of place, of family. The strands of his parents' lives reach from Outback Australia and the hardship years of the Great Depression and World War II, to the Waikato heart of the Kingitanga and a re-emergent people, to a time and place where 'tobacco was king' and a small farm by a river was the sum of all ambition.
Each story, each portrait, resonates with the dignity, warmth and understated humour of this fine poetic voice.
To me, this felt more like someone's personal diary that I shouldn't be reading. Each tale, though a heartwarming tale of everyday life in the Motueka Valley growing tobacco, did little for me.
The book was divided into three main sections, and each section was further divided into chapters. There was some flicking backward and forwards between Brown's reminisences of his childhood, the story of his father, his mother and their parents and families are also flicked between.
There are some photographs in the book, culled from a family album, at times they didn't seem to be very cohesive with the rest of the book, and again, it seemed more like I was straying into someone's private world, and maybe memories to be shared with the family rather than of general interest to the average reader.
There is humour to be found in the book, and even the title of the book may be found in one line in the book, which to be fair, was a lovely vignette from the author's childhood, and one in which most of us can relate to.
The book will appeal to people who have grown up in that sort of environment, where one may find a lot of common ground for poignant memories, to be shared over a barbie and a cold beer.
Though I did enjoy reading Brown's book, I can't say it held me that captivated.
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