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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Veteran New Zealand Writer Delivers Again., 14 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Talking About O'Dwyer (Hardcover)
C.K. Stead, former Professor of English at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, has delivered another highly accomplished novel. Based around a true wartime event -- a young Maori private is killed by his Pakeha officer during the Battle of Crete -- this is a well crafted story that ranges wide over time (from the Second World War to the present day) and place (New Zealand, Crete, Dalmatia and Oxford, England). Despite its centre being a wartime event, this is by no means a war story. Far from it. Rather it is a story of the peace. The war, and the tragedy that takes place, is merely a catalyst for themes of a much greater scope. These include Maori-Pakeha relations, New Zealand's coming of age in the world, and an increasing awareness of the unique cultural identities New Zealand possesses.
A stirring novel that is a first rate read. Very highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stead captures the spirit of the New Zealand diaspora, 24 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Talking About O'Dwyer (Panther) (Paperback)
Talking about O'Dwyer is a novel which explores distances - between cultures; between generations; between continents; between lovers. With each distance comes a matching diaspora of exiles - of Pakeha New Zealanders, somehow never quite truly at home in their own country; of those who grew up but were unable to be a part of war; of that great mass of New Zealanders living in the UK and feeling the chasm of the thousands of kilometers; of those who attempt to return to the arms of those who long ago pushed them away. Stead captures all of these distances, all of these diasporas brilliantly. A novel for any generation, and particularly a novel for people who themselves claim the membership of some sort of exile.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Irresistible storytelling, 11 Oct 2010
By 
LittleMoon (loving my life in the rain) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Talking About O'Dwyer (Panther) (Paperback)
Never underestimate the power of a good title: C. K. Stead's Talking about O'Dwyer succeeds with 3 words able to mirror the subtle heart of this novel. An even better example is Maclean's A River Runs Through it, but I digress, much as Stead's narrator does, as we follow him and his listener, fellow Oxford don, Winterson (would that we were all so fortunate in our listeners) through the tale.

Such is the nature of stories and storytelling, digression I mean, and besides, as Winterson, who encourages his friend to tell it from the beginning, says:

"We're old men, and we have the summer before us."

Donovan O'Dwyer, New Zealander, WWII commander, "good father" and "sod" is dead. With him he takes a secret known to very few, one of whom is our narrator, about the death of one of his soldiers and a Maori curse that resulted. Our storyteller, Mike Newall, fellow kiwi, Wittgenstein professor, unfolds the story of O'Dwyer's life building slowly to the "truth" of the soldier's death.

Newall and Winterson tread the streets of Oxford, visiting their favourite haunts, and these interrupt the narrative from time to time in the form of flashes of "context": the "steaming, soft-eyed beasts" that signal a walk through a field; food, fish, rain, the whistle of Winterson's hearing aid. Mike's story about O'Dwyer, becomes the piecing together of his own life, as the threads are loosely joined from New Zealand, to Crete, to Croatia. We learn of death and love, war and peace, as they affect a few scattered/connected lives across the world.

Talking about O'Dwyer is written in a conversational style that glows warmly throughout, and burns brightly from time to time, in lyrical moments:

"paratroopers emerged, dark shapes, arms high like divers,... as if the whole sky was breaking into flower"

I recognised Oxford, New Zealand, and Crete immediately (I've not been to Croatia, but imagine Stead has "caught" it too) through core details: the colours, the images, the sounds. The novel has an immediacy and poignancy that I think comes from the writer's "poet"; his sense of getting to the essence of place and people.

This novel is like an old friend, with an irresistible smile, a glass of red wine, and the promise of good conversation - enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The most compelling NZ novel I have read, 1 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Talking About O'Dwyer (Hardcover)
A truly masterful tale weaving together significant international racial and ethical issues, told with self-effacing humour and lightness. Not constrained by NZ's boundaries this novel roams between NZ and Europe, lending rich, colourful and poignant new dimensions to NZ's multi-cultural society.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sits alongside Malcom Bradbury, 16 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Talking About O'Dwyer (Hardcover)
Highlights how difficult it is to face up to the past and how we interpret certain events in order to get on with living. Follows a similar vein to The Secret History of Modernism, and might only appeal to an older generation who look back at crossroads in life and wonder if they had taken a different route would it have turned out the way the way it did.
I like the way he crosses continents and brings some of the literary giants perspectives into ordinary life. He has filled a gap for me left when Malcom Bradbury died.
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Talking About O'Dwyer (Panther)
Talking About O'Dwyer (Panther) by C. K. Stead (Paperback - 24 Jan 2002)
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