Thursday, September 03, 2009



BEN & MARK
BOYS OF THE HIGH COUNTRY
Christine Fernyhough & John Bougen
Random House - $36.99

I'm sorry but you are going to have to wait until 2 October before you can buy this one. There have to be some advantages in being a book reviewer/blogger and for The Bookman one of those advantages is seeing many gorgeous books a few weeks before they hit the bookstores.
And believe me I exagerate not when I describe this book as gorgeous. I guess when you combine a natural writer, and lover of the South Island high country, with a talented photographer, telling an enormously appealing story of two young boys growing up on an isolated and vast South Isanld sheep station, then it is little wonder that the end result is such a knockout.
The author of course is Christine Fernyhough, author of the 2007 publishing sensation, The Road to Castle Hill, and the photographer her husband John Bougen.

Here is the author's preface which the publisher and author have kindly allowed me to reproduce for my blog readers:


"As an eight-year-old boy, John’s favourite book — a book he read and reread almost every night — was Gay and Georg Kohlap’s David, Boy of the High Country. This evocative book with its splendid black and- white images took John from his inner-city Auckland home into the high country of the South Island of New Zealand, into a world so different from his own.
As he read about the lives of seven-year-old David Innes and his sister Rose, who lived on Haldon Station in the Mackenzie Country, John could hear the sheep bleating and the dogs barking.
He would wonder at the vastness of the land; he would wonder that it would be like to ride a horse, to muster a mob of merinos, to see a calf born, to smell the woolshed during shearing.

A lot about farming in the high country has changed since David, Boy of the High Country was published in 1964, but a lot is just the same. We hope our book about Ben and Mark Smith of Mount White Station in Canterbury will enthral you as you get to know the boys and their father and mother, and discover how their life is fashioned by the cycles and seasons of farming, and by living so far away from other people, in a place where you have to make your own fun with the natural world around you.
I got to know Ben and Mark’s parents, Richard and Sheri, quite soon after I moved from Auckland to Castle Hill Station, in the Upper Waimakariri Valley in Canterbury, in 2004.
Richard knew Castle Hill well, as he had been the manager there before taking up the manager’s job at Mount White. He was one of the first people who called in to see if I needed any help and advice running the farm. I soon learned how respected his farming skills are in the district.

My own children and grandchildren and the children in the Books In Homes programme love reading about the lives of other children. Since I have been farming I have become aware of how
little knowledge New Zealanders who live in cities have of rural New Zealand. John and I both hope that this book will help city kids learn about the lives of children who live on farms, especially in the South Island high country".

Christine Fernyhough
Castle Hill Station, Canterbury
September 2009

This is a special book and it will not surprise The Bookman if it in turn becomes a classic like David, Boy of the High Country, which I remember selling years ago at Beattie & Forbes Bookshp in Napier. I guess it has to be categorised as a children's book but I wager many an adult will read it too and be as enchanted as I was.

I suspect at their age Ben & Mark think that their lives are nothing out of the ordinary. Of course to a seasoned old city dweller like me it is clear that they enjoy an exceptional lifestyle with their parents in that remote and beautiful place. How fortunate they are that in their adulthood they will be able to re-read this book with its hundreds of stunning photographs and recall those happy, often exciting, long-ago days.

My tiny, tinpot laptop cannot do justice to John Broughan's fine photographs but I hope the two I have shown, and the cover, will serve to give you some idea of the spectacular landscape he has captured so wonderfully.

Likewise the map, see below, by Imogen Tunnicliffe is so much finer in the book than I can show here. It reminded me of a Tolkien map, such lovely detail.
The pic above left shows the first gate on Mt.White Station from where it is a 45 minute drive to Mark & Ben's home.
Remember publication is not until 2 Otcober, 2009. Order your copy now at your local bookshop or library.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have read your review and have a personal interest in your reference to "David, Boy of the High Country" as I am the partner of the late Georg Kohlap, Author. I wish to have a copy of your written review as shown on your blog. Please email me one at your convenience.

Bookman Beattie said...

I will be happy to do this but I need your e-mail address?

Anonymous said...

I remember reading "David, Boy of the High Country" at Lytton Street (Feilding) Primary School in the early 1970's and just loved that book. The librarian wouldn't let be hold it for another week and said "I needed to read some other books".

The funny thing is the book references the construction of Benmore hydro-electric project and this ended up being the same industry that I now work in. (how is that for remembering a book from 40 years ago)

I'm now an ex-pat kiwi in the US and wish you all the best with the new book. I hope that every kiwi school gets a copy for their library. Books like these can be the trigger for youngsters to enjoy reading.

Cheers,
Mike