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Little House in New Zealand – but sadder

By Fiona Gregory, editor

Nov 23, 2009: I have to say, this novel really got under my skin. Six months after reading, I’m still haunted by it.

The first part of this novel is like reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiographical stories of a pioneer girl’s life; it’s the same farming and family life, but among the exotic flora of New Zealand.

Teenagers were so much more responsible then! Amy, the protagonist of this story, competently cooks and runs the household for her father and brothers; her mother died when she was small. These are actually the good days for Amy, except that her dream to become a teacher is subjugated to the needs of the family.

Things take a turn for the worse when her father brings home a new wife, an elegant city woman who is thoroughly unsuited to farm life and whose frustration and bitterness brings tension and unhappiness to everyone around her. The arrival of this new stepmother, instead of freeing up Amy to pursue her own dreams, sets the stage for a tragedy which leads Amy down a darker path than she could ever have expected (and the similarity to the Ingalls stories ends).

It’s a real indictment of attitudes toward women in that era, even by those who loved them and thought they had their best interests at heart (Amy’s father). The submissiveness, self-sacrifice and yearning for approval which is drummed into Amy makes her vulnerable and arguably leads to her downfall.

The story is enthralling and brings you into the time period, but ends on a very dark note. There are three sequel novels, (available online but not entirely free) but it takes a long time for things to get any better for poor Amy.

Meanwhile, Amy’s less imaginative but shrewder cousin sets her target for happiness lower and hits her mark.

This novel is accessed through Smashworlds where there are several options for download. I started reading it as a html but found the site seemed to get bogged down, so recommend downloading the pdf instead.

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