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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am a huge fan of historical fiction and read as much of it as I can, especially that set in the nineteenth century and this sounded right up my street. I was a little dismayed by the thickness and weight of the book when it arrived but assumed it would be a captivating saga and that the pages would fly by.

I began to read with interest but was soon pulled up short by the anachronisms and historical inaccuracies in the early sections set in the United Kingdom. (Where do I begin? A governess teaching Latin to a 16-year-old boy? A governess sharing the dinner table with the family? A champion sheep-herding border collie living as a pet in an aristocratic drawing-room? An understanding of dog-allergy-induced asthma in the mid-nineteenth century? And so on...) I am not normally a stickler for nit-picking detail but I believe that historical fiction has to bear some resemblance to reality. And there was so much that wasn't plain wrong that I lost confidence in the writer. And that is not a good thing for a book which is meant to sweep readers away.

The story and various plot-lines rattled along nicely enough but on a purely superficial level because the characters were all stereotypes and without complexity. And it was all too far-fetched and easily resolved. The whole book could have done with a severe pruning. The writing style was plodding. ponderous and lacked any sparkle. It's impossible to tell whether this was the fault of the author or translator but surely the translator is to blame for this example of a rhyming phrase so little thought-out that I laughed out loud? "who stood with Madoc in the paddock."(!)

I would have given this novel far less three stars but felt it unfair to judge a novel that I had only skimmed through because of lack of engagement. Some reviewers seem to love it, so the fault must be mine. Sorry.
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VINE VOICEon 3 April 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
In the Land of the Long White Cloud by Sarah Lark for me is a book which I would not recommend to all readers of historical fiction. If you do not mind a long read which at times is rather slow this book could suit you but if you like action with every turn of the page this certainly is not the book for you and in my case it was not a book which I would say I enjoyed it.
The book is mainly based on two girls from totally different social classes who both have been given the opportunity to go to New Zealand to meet their future spouses. New Zealand in the 1850's is really a land which only parts of it had become inhabited by those from across the waters and as a land which at this time in history the British were still finding out what the actual land had to offer.
Gwyneira's hand has been won in a card game, the loser in this case was her father who bets his own daughter, but Gwyneira is like no other lady from the 19th Century as this girl has spirit and can herd sheep along with her collie dog who she clearly adores better than any man. Gwyneira meets Helen the other character in the book while travelling from the United Kingdom to New Zealand as they are boarding the ship which is to take them to their new lives. Helen is a hard working Governess who has been working to pay for her brothers education, at 27 she feels like an old maid and when she sees an advert asking for women to go to New Zealand to marry single gentlemen farmers she has a very romantic attitude to the life she thinks she will be going into when she steps foot on this new land. To say both girls do not get the life they had dreamed of is an understatement but as they spend their time learning about their new lives and having adventures along the way the girls become accustomed to their new lives.
This was a book which promised a lot but at times for me failed to deliver and I found it a book which was to slow at the story developing which was the main reason I felt that the book was not for me and a book I would find hard to recommend to other readers.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 November 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a book on a huge scale. It reminds me of those magnificent Technicolor epics made in the late fifties and early sixties depicting pioneer life in the Old West, except that In the Land of the Long White Cloud is set mostly in New Zealand rather than the USA.

The book mainly concentrates on the lives of Helen Davenport, a governess in her late twenties drawn to New Zealand in search of the husband she is unlikely to find in Victorian London, and Guineira, daughter of Lord Silkham, who, in effect, loses her in a bet with a New Zealand wool baron. Helen is put in charge of six orphans destined to be servants. She and Guineira meet on the journey to New Zealand and their lives are entwined from that point on.

New Zealand is not what either was expecting, Christchurch being little more than a village, and their prospective husbands are not really what they were expecting either, but there is little option but to proceed as planned. So we follow their lives and watch how society in New Zealand begins to develop, thanks to the efforts of pioneers, entrepreneurs, rogues and misfits.

It would be impossible to give a summary of the plot without either diminishing it or acting as a spoiler. Suffice to say that what happens is often exciting, sometimes upsetting and always plausible. The characters of Helen and Guineira are sympathetic and you can identify strongly with them. Although they are strong characters, they are not those intensely irritating heroines who can overcome every travail put in their way. They are nineteenth century women living nineteenth century lives. Some of the other people you may feel you have met before, but it doesn't really matter as the story is strong enough to sustain them.

Initially I was a bit daunted by the size of the book - it is over eight hundred pages long and is heavy - but it reads at a rollicking pace and I finished it in a much shorter time that I had expected, having been completely immersed in the story, really enjoying the experience.

A word of warning - if you like your historical novels to be written in a form of language that sounds authentic to the period being written about, you may find that this book grates. The language is contemporary and uses words and idioms that are completely foreign to the nineteenth century. I was surprised to find that it was originally written in German. The translation is excellent as it doesn't fall into any of the traps that renditions from the German usually set.

So, this is an excellent book for cold winter evenings - it will transport you to the much more exciting and stirring times of nineteenth century pioneer life on the Canterbury Plains and the uplands of New Zealand - a really good read.
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on 20 January 2013
I was attracted to this book having lived in the South Island of Aeteroa, Moari name for New Zealand meaning 'Land of the long White Cloud' and I love historical fiction. Whilst living there I often used to wonder what life must have been like for the first white immigrants and read a factual book about the development of Lyttleton and Christchurch and the 'respectableness' of it's unforced settlers .

Sarah Lark perfectly captures the pioneering spirit and drive to replicate life from the homeland of those first immigrants, including the strictures of class structure and the position of women. One only has to look at Christchurch to see how hard they strove to recreate a little piece of England. Some of the plot is very far fetched, implausible and too neat but provides a good vehicle for a broad brushstroke examination of the complexities of colonisation and the ability of people to change and adapt to different circumstance, including the already resident population.

What irrated me about the book however was the 'English' translation. Surprisingly Sarah Lark is German and the book has been translated by an American. Unfortunately the text was peppered with Americanisms such as gotten and fixed which jarrs today but is especially poor when used in the context of the 19th Century and the character is supposedly 'well bred'.

The other interesting aspect was the issue of the realtionship between White settler and Moari, who had colonised New Zealand long before the Pakeha arrived, and observations on the two very different cultural approaches to life. I am no expert but Lark's interpretation of the likely early interaction between the two groups seemed very plausible. I also learned that Mackenzie country was named after a Robin Hood type sheep rustler. I'm assuming this is factually correct but haven't yet looked it up. No doubt he was descended from one of our very own Border Reivers. On the whole I would reccommend this book as it is not common to come across a fictional book which uses New Zealand history as it's basis - just take some of it with a pinch of salt!
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on 26 June 2013
Lark has written a fascinating story of the journey and subsequent life of two women who set out for New Zealand to marry men as yet unknown to them. The story is well told and rich in description. What lets it down is the constant use of American terminology certainly not in use in England and the antipodean colonies in the latter half of the 19th century. 'Snuck' for 'sneaked; and 'gotten' for 'became' cropped up several times; the use of 'dumb' for silly, and someone knitting a 'onsie' for a baby I found profoundly irritating! In the 1850s babies of both sexes wore gowns until they were at least a year old, the term 'onsie' is a fairly recent introduction to the British vocabulary and was certainly not in use at the time the novel was set. A bit of research would have revealed that at the time of the story the New Zealand currency was NZ POUNDS, the change to NZ dollars was made on the 10th July 1967! Other irritations include 'cute', 'math' and 'schadenfreude'. All of these anomolies seriously detracted from my enjoyment of an otherwise splendid novel; this must surely be the fault of her translator. In future Ms Lark would be well advised to use a British translator for her works based on English people, wherever they are in the world, or at least have an English person read the translation before it goes into print! Had it not been for the lack of care in translation I would have given this novel a full 5 stars.
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on 24 November 2014
This was a lengthy book and on the whole, enjoyable. It begins in tells the story of two young 19th century women from different backgrounds. Gwyneira is the daughter of a Welsh aristocrat and Helen is a governess in England. Helen is attracted to an advertisement for brides for farmers in New Zealand and Gwyneira is gambled away by her father to a visiting New Zealand sheep baron.
The two ladies meet on their three month journey by sailing ship to their new country and become friends. Helen has been asked to accompany some young orphaned girls who are being transported on the same ship, to become servants in their new country.
The story is interesting as it provides some insight into life in a very young and developing country, which is very different from the impression both Helen and Gwyneira were given. The civilised society both women knew in England and Wales is not what they find when they arrive and both women have to endure different but equally challenging experiences in their new homes.
I would have given this book more stars but for the numerous anachronisms which other people have mentioned, as well as the irritating Americanized language used throughout the book. Examples I can instantly recall are "Fall" instead of "Autumn", "straightaway" instead of "immediately" or any other choice of more British vocabulary. All the spellings were American and the language used did not match the era at times. The American translator' s influence so dominated the book that it was sometimes difficult to remember the story was NOT set in America. To put it another way, the book often did not feel as if it was about the experiences of two British women.
Despite these comments, I still found the story enjoyable, though only worth 3 stars.
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VINE VOICEon 19 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Helen Davenport is a 27 year old governess and her chances of getting husband are nil. On seeing an advertisement in a paper seeking young churchgoing women to marry honourable men in New Zealand she decides to take a chance and in due course finds herself in receipt of a marriage proposal from a'gentleman farmer'. She sails to the other side of the world on this slender promise of a good life, taking charge of a disparate group of young orphans who are being sent out to work in Christchurch and the surrounding countryside.

Also on the ship is Gwyneria Silkham, a beautiful daughter of a wealthy sheep breeder. She is wilful but bored with her life and desperate not to sink into a life of boring domesticity. A New Zealand sheep baron arrives to buy livestock from her father and as soon as he seens Gwyneria decides she would make the perfect wife for his son and by dint of a drunken card game wins Gwyneria as his future daughter in law.

Helen and Gwyneria become friends and this friendship is needed as both of them suffer disillusionment and unhappiness in their new lives.

This is a 500+ page book and it really could do with some serious editing as characters come and go and one or two given plotlines that I found rather unlikely. Characterisation is drawn with a wide brush stroke and we seem to stagger from one upheaval and disaster to another.

However, nit picking aside it certainly is a Good Read and, despite my thoughts given above, overall an enjoyable way of spending a day or two. It certainly engaged my attention even though I kept tutting and chuntering while I was reading it and, considering its length, that is something in its favour.

So only three stars which is a shame as when I started reading I thought it was going to be better than it was.
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on 30 September 2015
I understand that translation can take away some of the original author's artfulness, however, it can't be an excuse for the historical inaccuracies going on here. I'm pretty sure the upper middle classes in Victorian London didn't say "OK", and despite one of the heroines, a lady of some class, moving to the Antipodes, I also find it pretty unlikely she'd end many of her sentences with "right?". Let's not even go into the fact that a woman who begins as the world's worst governess becomes a housewife who is so practically inept she can barely function, but spends a three month journey educating children on how to be servants.
It's hard to find the plot engaging when the characters talk like modern teenagers, and behave in ways that are either historically unlikely, cliched or just annoying. A bit of googling would have improved it no end - and therefore made it better reading for pedants like me. I'm sure lots of people who read historical novels do so because they have a vague idea about history...
I really enjoy light historical sagas like this usually, but even I have found it a job to get through the many, many pages of things that make you say "eh?".
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on 18 September 2015
Very interesting read especially if you have visited New Zealand a few times like I have. Full of admiration for early settlers.
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on 8 May 2013
Most of this novel is set in New Zealand's South Island and is an absorbing read, drawing a convincing picture of life for settlers and Maori in the mid-C19th.
The earlier parts are set in London and Wales and here the language jars: references to a "pastor" when it's pretty clear that a Church of England vicar is meant - who would be described as a priest or clergyman; repeated use of the expression to "wash up" meaning to wash oneself - not what wash up means in British English; a character lives in a "fraternity house" while at university in England - "college" is probably meant; a family lives in a "manor" in London with a park; a child was in an "almshouse" with her mother - most unlikely, almshouses were and are for the elderly, mother and child would probably have been in the workhouse. Final exasperating error, a child emigrant from London is said to have been born in Queens - so one wonders how she got from New York to London?
Most of this is probably misunderstanding between a German author and an American translator, but given that the characters are of British, not American, origin, it's annoying. If you can overlook this, or don't mind it, this is a throroughly entertaining book. But maybe if the author writes another book with British characters, she should find them a British translator.
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