Remembering Christchurch: Voices from Decades past
Penguin Random House $45
Eulogy for a Vanished City
The Canterbury earthquakes created scars which re-open each time we spot the absence of a familiar building. Alison Parr and Rosemary Baird have used skilful interviewing techniques (originally developed in recording wartime memoirs) to enable nineteen Cantabrians to describe their lives in a vanished Canterbury which still survives in their crisp memories.
“Everything that was there around my childhood has gone,” says Robert Consedine, “I think we carry what we need to carry in us.” Milk billies, trams, penny ice creams, gas lamps on trains, Friday night shopping, six o’clock closing, proof-reading at The Press, night carts, acid drops, knuckle bones and gym frocks are all remembered. Best of all, the nineteen witnesses speak in their own words.
Reading Trevor Smith’s description of Cashel Street shops, I was suddenly outside Browne and Heaton’s, smelling the freshly-roasted coffee. For others it will be the swinging seats at Fail’s Fish Restaurant. Every page of this wonderful book is an emotional ambush.
Reviewed by Trevor Agnew
This review first appeared in Your Weekend magazine (Fairfax) on 17 Oct 2015.