Kauri in My Blood Joanna Orwin, Scholastic, (My Story series), 2007, 223 pages, paperback, NZ$17.
While local author Joanna Orwin was researching her award-winning history Kauri: Witness to a Nation’s History (2004), she met Ruth ‘Micky’ Murray, a 93 year old who had spent her childhood in bush camps “She wore trousers, rode horses, swore like a trooper and spent time exploring and hunting in the bush.” With Micky’s permission, Orwin has used some of her memories in writing this exciting and readable novel about family life in the kauri milling days of the Coromandel.
Laura Findlay, a witty, intelligent girl, begins her diary in 1921 as she is preparing for her Proficiency Exam. “I always have to be careful not to catch the nib of the pen and send a splatter of ink across my work.” When her father, who operates a steam hauler, has health problems, her mother has to work in a bush cookhouse, and Laura becomes her offsider.
Laura’s diary gives a vivid picture of her school life and work among the bushmen, with pack horses, bush remedies, steam lokies, and the last bullock team all making their appearance. Laura’s descriptions of the dramatic methods of getting the giant logs downstream by the use of dams and controlled floods make for lively reading. Kauri in my Blood is both a lively story of a young girl’s efforts to obtain a horse and a vivid recreation of the atmosphere of the 1920s.
This review by Trevor Agnew first appeared in The Press, Christchurch on 14th July 2007.