That war – reading about World War 1

cover for Memoirs of a fox hunting manI recently sat down to make a list of recommended reads for World War 1. I was thinking of the novels and first hand accounts that I had read (and re read) and four really stood out for me.

My all time favourite would be J. L . Carr’s novella A month in the country. First published in 1980, it tells of two veterans who meet several years after wars end in a small Yorkshire village as they work as restorer and archaeologist at the village church. War is a haunting memory still affecting their lives even in a peaceful and idyllic countryside.

Somehow I stumbled over Robert Graves’ Goodbye to all that and I have read and reread this powerful account of the experiences of the front line in the Great War.

Memoirs of a fox hunting man by Siegfried Sassoon follows the life of a young man most interested in hunting and cricket who is caught up in the hysteria of the early war, before grim reality set in. His following two novels – Memoirs of an infantry officer and Sherston’s progress are autobiographical, charting disillusionment and loss as the war progresses.

Birdsong  by Sebastian Faulks is a modern novel which traces the impact of the war on a young man’s life. When it was published in 1993 I remember it being very popular in our libraries – largely due to an amazing word of mouth effect.

My list is very much a personal selection – other classics you might think of like Erich Maria Remarque’s All quiet on the Western Front is there as well as that New Zealand tale of the sufferings of conscientious objectors – Archibald Baxter’s We will not cease. I have popped in some good histories and poetry selections as well as War horse by Michael Morpurgo.

Do you have a World War 1 novel, poem or history that you would recommend?

A busker with a banjo entertaining in Cathedral Square, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

busker
A busker with a banjo entertaining in Cathedral Square, Christchurch [1927] Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 3, IMG0060

Anzac weekend eBooks

We’ve got a lovely selection of New Zealand eBooks for Anzac weekend reading:

9780730443315 9780730445630 9781741159684 9781775590064
9780473215224 9780473219901 9780473221751 9780987666574
9781869406455 9781877437113 9781877568534  9781927147344

Freegal: Anzac Day edition

Christchurch music lovers – every week get your Freegal on and download your three free music MP3s.

This week the theme is Anzac Day.

album coverAnzac3

album coverAnzac4

Anzac Day 2014

Friday 25 April 2014 is Anzac Day. Christchurch is currently celebrating Anzac Day with a Dawn Service in Cranmer Square (where a temporary cenotaph is erected) and a Citizens Service at the ChristChurch Transitional Cathedral in Latimer Square. The details for each service are available on the Christchurch City Council website. For the locations and times of other commemorations around Christchurch details can be found on the RSA website.

Each year many wreaths and bouquets from the Dawn Service end up at the statue of Sgt Henry James Nicholas V.C. M.M., northwest of the Bridge of Remembrance on Cambridge Terrace.

Wreaths by statue of Sergeant Henry Nicholas

Sergeant Henry NicholasHenry Nicholas was the first soldier from the Canterbury Regiment to be awarded the Victoria Cross. He died in action on 23 October 1918 aged 26. He was awarded the Military Medal posthumously for his bravery during the fight for the bridgeheads at the River Ecaillon near the village of Beaudignies on 23 October 1918, 12 days before the New Zealanders’ capture of the town of Le Quesnoy.

All of our libraries are closed on Anzac Day.

A newspaper vendor in Cathedral Square, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

newspaper vendor
A newspaper vendor in Cathedral Square, Christchurch [1927] Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 6, IMG0039

Easter parade – families and food

Ballantynes Easter
Icing eggs and other Easter goodies at Ballantynes. Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference HW08-img-fe111

Tomorrow is Good Friday (note: not Easter Friday).  It, and Easter Monday, are public holidays and so our libraries will be closed. But Saturday and Sunday aren’t public hols – so the libraries will be open.

Last Easter Donna remembered some of her favourite Easter things.  Seeing all those coloured Easter eggs reminded me of what a family time Easter is for many people and how the giving of Easter eggs is still a treat for young and old.

As a child I had an indulgent aunt who showered me with wonderful eggs – so much so that I was still dealing with them weeks if not months later. Some of them looked awfully like those pink and blue confections. Fortunately (or not) they seemed to have a long shelf life.  Hot cross buns toasted and served with butter, a sit down family feast with all the roast trimmings – these traditions have continued on in our families.

Another tradition is uncertain Easter weather! Sometimes wonderful, sometimes so bad like the Easter where the dining table at our house was given over to a giant Where’s Wally jigsaw that kept the family amused for several wet days. Make sure you are prepared for all eventualities with goodies from our collections.

Easter Parade
Easter Parade heading down Oxford Terrace toward the Catholic Cathedral in Barbadoes Street. Forester’s Hotel is on the left. c. 1950.

What does Easter mean to you? Do you have Easter-y traditions?

A shoe-shine man reads a newspaper while waiting in Cathedral Square for customers: Picturing Canterbury

A shoe-shine man reads a newspaper while waiting in Cathedral Square for customers, Christchurch
A shoe-shine man reads a newspaper while waiting in Cathedral Square for customers, Christchurch Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference CCL PhotoCD 3, IMG0061

Remembering the Wahine sinking

April 10 is the anniversary of the sinking of the Wahine in Wellington Harbour with the loss of 51 lives.

Policeman Ray Ruane holding a young survivor of the Wahine shipwreck. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1968/1574/26a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22508739
Policeman Ray Ruane holding a young survivor of the Wahine shipwreck. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1968/1574/26a-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22508739

Find out more:

NZBC Classics - Wahine Disaster

Jane Austen – the musical

cover of Sense and sensibilityJane Austen has certainly spawned a huge industry – including many movie and television adaptations,  Zombified JA and modern rewrites of her novels by well known writers. I enjoy the films (most) but don’t usually go in for any of the books (Janeite purist?) although I did recently read Jo Baker’s Longbourn with some enjoyment.

Last year we celebrated 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice.  Now Kiwi comedienne Penny Ashton has launched Promise and Promiscuity – a Jane Austen inspired musical – upon the unsuspecting public. Christchurch audiences can see it for two nights – April 11 and 12 – at her old school, Rangi Ruru, which is celebrating 125 years this year. Penny claims to have safely negotiated a tour of Canada and parts of New Zealand without being beaten up by zealous Janeites. More details on Penny’s website  or iticket.