The more I read about New Zealand, the more I want to travel there. The space, the mountains, the water, the people all just draw me in with its mystery and beauty. In the Land of the Long White Cloud is a beautifully written story of love, war, family, traditions and all that goes along with living in the late 1800’s.
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After several book reviews, you might be wondering why I usually resort to sharing the Goodreads synopsis instead of writing my own. The reality is that the most concise information about a book does come from directly from the publisher.
Not being a fan of recreating the wheel and sharing the same information that you can find multiple places on the internet, I prefer to focus on my own thoughts and opinions about the story itself.
That being said, for readers like myself, Goodreads is a great website. You can save several bookshelves to your account like “To Read” “Finished” “Recommendations” etc. I am “friends” with several of my Facebook buddies and love to see what they are reading and recommending. If you are on Goodreads, I would love to be “friends” so we can share our love of books there also!
One more thing. For this book review, I’d like to premier my new ranking system –
(shout out to Big Jon for the great idea! Love you, honey :))
Introducing… Etymon – The Bookworm.
From now on, each book I read will be rated by Etymon (who by the way is named for the little bits that make up his books – words)
- 5 Etymons = Mind-blower. The kind of story that you absolutely must read.
- 4 Etymons = Excellent read. I loved it. It entertained me.
- 3 Etymons = A good book. I would recommend and read it again.
- 2 Etymons = Not so much. I didn’t really enjoy this book
- 1 Etymons = Don’t even waste your time. I probably didn’t even finish it.
Now – on with In the Land of the Long White Cloud
Helen Davenport, governess for a wealthy London household, longs for a family of her own—but nearing her late twenties and with no dowry, her prospects are dim. Responding to an advertisement seeking young women to marry New Zealand’s honorable bachelors, she corresponds with a gentleman farmer. When her church offers to pay her travels under an unusual arrangement, she jumps at the opportunity.
Meanwhile, not far away in Wales, beautiful and daring Gwyneira Silkham, daughter of a wealthy sheep breeder, is bored with high society. But when a mysterious New Zealand baron deals her father an unlucky blackjack hand, Gwyn’s hand in marriage is suddenly on the table. Her family is outraged, but Gwyn is thrilled to escape the life laid out for her.
The two women meet on the ship to Christchurch—Helen traveling in steerage, Gwyn first class—and become unlikely friends. When their new husbands turn out to be very different than expected, the women help one another in ways they never anticipated.
Set against the backdrop of colonial nineteenth-century New Zealand, In the Land of the Long White Cloud is a soaring saga of friendship, romance, marriage and adventure.
I have to start by dissecting the characters in this book. They are each unique and clearly either likable or not. Each character is so well-developed that I feel I personally know each one intimately and I love that about this book.
After all, isn’t that the greatest thing in reading? When you can lose yourself in the story and feel personally connected to the people, the drama, the events?
- Helen Davenport – Helen is in her late 20’s, almost a spinster by the time’s standards. Yet she is kind, smart, and born to be a wife and mother. She longs for a family of her own and takes a huge risk traveling to New Zealand to find this. She cares deeply for children and the orphans she takes care of. She is incredibly loyal to her friends, her charges, and her husband.
- Gwyneira Silkham/Warden – What fun to watch her bloom from a 15-year-old girl with an unending sense of adventure into a woman full of life, intelligence, love and common sense. I love the way Gwyn wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself in a world where men ruled the earth.
- James McKenzie – The quintessential “hero”. I did struggle with the fact that his name was James McKenzie. It was so similar to James Mackenzie Fraser of the Outlander Series. That being said, James is easy to love. He is strong, rugged, a little bad-boy, and completely devoted to Gwyn.
- Gerald Warden – Scoundrel turned self-made sheep baron, Gerald is an angry man at heart. He is determined to be the best, have the best and control it all. He is easy to hate.
- Lucas Warden – My heart goes out to Lucas. He is a gay man in a world not very friendly to gay men. Enough said.
Throw these interesting characters into a 700 plus page book and mix it all up and you get one heck-uv-a sweeping epic novel that covers many years, a few generations and 2 continents.
In the Land of the Long White Cloud is a story about families. Families composed of immigrants and natives and between the immigrants and natives. It is a story about creating lives out of what God gives and what He doesn’t.
For me, the entire book led me to think about my own life and how much easier it is for me in so many ways than Helen or Gwyneira.
I am so grateful that I am living in the 20th century – that I get to choose my own husband – that I knew what to expect on my wedding night – that I have never once felt like another person’s property – that I have choices about how I want to spend my time – that I am not dependant on the weather, the land, and a variety of different kinds of “stew” for my meals!
The final word…
4 Etymons for The Land of the Long White Cloud by Sarah Lark
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