The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 12 (March 1, 1939.)
“New Zealand—Land of My Choice.”
“New Zealand—Land of My Choice.”
The first notable thing about “New Zealand—Land of My Choice” is that the title means more than usual. The choosing of New Zealand as an adopted country by Mrs. Ellen Roberts was no haphazard impulse. She is a world traveller of the best type, she tried the New Zealand life for three years, she returned to England, she wandered about the world for five years or more, and made her selection as a considered judgment.
She knows the good points of Sweden and Poland, Spain and South Africa, and many other favoured climes and countries, and her enthusiasm for New Zealand is expressed in this book. I found it a joy to read. The author has an easy-going prose style which nevertheless reflects a picturesque personality. Above all, she is alive with intellectual curiosity and in consequence her book is a small encyclopedia of all that is good and distinctive in our New Zealand scene.
Mrs. Roberts is a devotee of open-air sport. She owns a couple of racehorses, one of them a winner, she fishes, hunts, shoots, and can take her turn at farm work, or at the wheel of a sailing ship.
She was the only woman on a pearling schooner trip round the South Sea Isles. For good measure she is the wife of a busy medical man, and so obtains an insight into the everyday tragedies and joys of all ranks of New Zealanders.
She attends the wedding of a taxi-driver patient of her husband, and is struck with the singing of “God Save the King” by two hundred guests. She was stimulated by the fact that children in New Zealand grow up to be independent, practical and mature early because of these elements in upbringing. She describes wood-chopping contests, a “Fisherman's Paradise,” a whaling station, lighthouse life, and even devotes a chapter to New Zealand dogs.
Naturally, she and her husband have visited all the scenic points, and though there would seem to be no more words for use in picturing such places as Milford, the Buller Gorge, Rotorua, or Orakei Korako, she manages to say something fresh.
In fact this Englishwoman of culture and charm, has managed to convey in these pages, more of the zest for open air, the variety and tang of New Zealand life than has hitherto been accomplished by any writer born in the land.
“New Zealand—Land of My Choice” is in its way a classic. It will be read in the years to come when New Zealand is teeming with factories, and the texture of our lives has changed. It will enshrine permanently a land where living was joyous and free, where growth was natural and swift, and where the riches of nature were appreciated by everyone. It will also be a text-book almost, of farming methods. Mrs. Roberts excels in her detailed descriptions of farm work, and I am afraid much of her material will be pilfered by writers who want their local colour to sound natural.
In the meantime, this book should be on the shelf of every New Zealander who loves his own country. A final word should be said about the illustrations of which there are over fifty. They are exquisite, but to me their principal appeal is their wide range. Mrs. Roberts has selected them, not for their photographic technique but to amplify the odd bits of her story, or some striking or distinctive development. “New Zealand—Land of My Choice,” is worth while in every sense.
* * *