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The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns and Shelly Davies: A Book Review

The Settling Earth
Author: Rebecca Burns and Shelly Davies
Genre: Historical fiction, Short Stories
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 128
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Marriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant-The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers' attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land. Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities-these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.

      My review: The Settling Earth is a collection of short stories about the daily lives of colonial British settlers in New Zealand. The stories are told from the viewpoint of ten characters, as they go through their personal problems and how they are confronted by their secrets. Most of the people in the story are from the viewpoints of women, with a little from the men’s side. While most of the characters are British, the last character is a Maori that works on a farm. The short stories are all connected with one another, and each of them must learn to cope with living in New Zealand.

     The short stories are beautifully told. The main message in the novel is that even though women lived far away from Britain, they are not treated with respect to men. Women are very powerless. This evident by the way that the women have been treated. Sarah’s husband views her as nothing but property and often neglects her and doesn’t bother to care about her. One husband abuses his stepdaughter. The viewpoints from the male colonial settlers are portrayed negatively.  While they don’t respect their women, they also don’t respect anyone but themselves. They are arrogant, selfish, and cruel. However, one man is portrayed in a positive light, and that is the Maori. He is mostly looked down upon, and he witnesses the difference between his culture and the foreign one. He feels hates how the foreigners treat their women and the land.

    Overall, the story is about how a group of people cope by living far from their homeland. It is also about choices and sacrifice. while there are dark stories, there are also stories of hope, redemption, and the blossoming of friendship. The writing is very beautiful and the setting is well-developed. Sometimes I wish that the stories was longer because they always ended in cliffhangers. I recommend these to anyone, who is interested in learning about the early colonial settlement of New Zealand, or looking for a good short story to read.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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