It’s always a good read with this popular independent New Zealand author
Some typical reader reviews
‘I just want to let you know how much I have enjoyed your book ‘My Marian Year’. It was on my son-in-law’s bedside table and I just picked it up thinking it would be a light read, perhaps not so interesting as I do not know a lot about New Zealand's past, but what a treasure trove of memories I found! Although not raised in a Catholic school I converted and taught in Catholic schools for many years. The stories of the sisters were so real as was the devotion of so many parents - so intense. So many rules!! I loved the games the children played, jacks, chasies and French cricket. I loved the Rawleighs man (one used to visit us on the farm). I loved the visits to the city and the cinemas. It was like a repeat of my life. Perhaps saddest yet loveliest story was of your mum and dad’s marriage and working so hard to make it work after having spent so many years apart and becoming such different people, yet obviously creating a magical life for you! I cannot explain how I felt about the Epilogue. Tears of joy and sadness, such beautiful words, so beautifully expressed. I think I have just completed one of the best books I have read in my life and I am an insatiable reader. Thank you so much. ‘
With much respect.
I bought your book ‘My Marian Year’ for my brother but of course I read it first. I really enjoyed it. It reflected my family’s experience during the Marian year and also our Catholic upbringing to a ‘t’. ... I thought the detail you put into your book was remarkable and it was a very enjoyable and literate read. I know that my brother will really enjoy it as well.
‘Absolutely loving 'My Marian Year'! Got the feeling that you were looking over my shoulder as I grew up, though!’
Cathrine West, Wellington
I have just finished your book and I must say it is one of my best reads ever. It has brought back many memories and filled the room with laughter on many occasions. Although I grew up in Dunedin most of what you have written is reminiscent of my early childhood in the 1950's. Thank you for a well written and entertaining publication which took me back to my childhood and the forgotten memories.
‘I am taking a moment to contact you to say "Thank You" for writing "My Marian Year". I bought the book as a birthday present for my mother who was also a baby-boomer. She thoroughly enjoyed your book and was moved by the powerful memories it evoked of her own childhood in a working class family in post-war New Zealand.
I borrowed the book from mum, and was completely captivated. I grew up as a boy in the small rural town of Opunake in the early 1970s, and yet many things you mentioned had not changed; your description of the Butcher's shop was a word-for-word description of the Opunake butcher, even though it was a good 20 years later. I went to St Josephs Convent school in Opunake, before it became integrated, and was still dominated by terrifying, larger-than-life nuns. I then went to Francis Douglas college, New Plymouth, run by DeLaSalle brothers.
So, let me re-iterate my gratitude for the pleasure you have given us, and end with a plea, if I may, for you to write a sequel, about Johnny's years at Marist.
‘...every public library in New Zealand should have copies of My Marian Year. It is in my view a significant contribution to the history of New Zealand and Auckland and the nineteen- fifties in particular. Congratulations for an excellent book. You deserve the highest praise for its publication.’
Peter Gillmore, Brisbane
Much praise to the author of this book. Once I started reading I could not put it down. 'Johnny Boy' certainly took me back in time to how life was in New Zealand in the early 50’s. How little we have to complain about in this modern age compared to the struggles parents had to deal with in those far off day. However, this book left we with a rather negative opinion of the Catholic church and how they controlled their flock with the fear of sin for very minor transgressions. I hope the author will continue writing. I would like to know more about his life as it progressed into adulthood.
‘Curious’ Amazon review
My Marian Year, is a delightful reminiscence of a year in the life of a ten year old Catholic boy, growing up in Auckland in 1954. All who lived through these times will love this book, with its rich observation of every crevice of a child's upbringing then. The joys, hardships and complexities of home, school, church, shops, workplaces, transport and entertainment are rendered in vivid detail. Everything is described with care from the washing, cooking, cleaning, dining, recycling, gardening, preserving, playing and relaxing, to school, family, community and religious observances that characterized the passing year.
Who can forget knuckle bones, marbles and other games and toys, school milk, Guy Fawkes, close of school and Christmas preparations. Remember the way disability was dealt with, dentistry and doctoring, alcohol and entertainment? Simple aspects of life such as the provision of meat and poultry are described in such detail that you can feel the sawdusted floor of the butchery, see the changing shape of the block, smell the hanging meat.
From the misery of calculating in pounds, shillings and pence to the joy of finding 'spare bread' at the dairy, or seeing the Rawleigh's man at the door; everything is scrutinized with childlike intensity and with an easy flow that keeps the reader fully engaged throughout.
This book is not to be missed.
Graeme Beals, New Plymouth
My Marian Year
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A simple and heartwarming story of daily life in suburban New Zealand in 1954.
Full of detail and always informative, entertaining
and amusing. Equally enjoyable for young and old.
My Marian Year is about the daily life of a ten-year-old boy growing up in a Catholic working class family in suburban Auckland in 1954. The story's interest lies in the way the narrator, John 'Johnny Boy' Little, gives us the petty details of his simple life, and of Catholic life, in the 'fifties, month-by-month, and how he - curious and sceptical - saw and related to his family, school, church, shops and the people of the Auckland neighbourhood he called home.
That everyone and everything in his little life during this one year was so undistinguished, ordinary and typical of the times - except perhaps in its climax - means that the modern reader receives a simple, unvarnished, plain-language taste of life in the suburban New Zealand of the past. As a result My Marian Year appeals equally to the old and young: the old recognise themselves in the story, with poignant reminders of their own childhood, while the young are fascinated if not astonished by how much life in New Zealand has changed in just fifty-odd years.
My Marian Year takes its title from the fact that Pope Pius XII declared that 1954 was to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called a 'Marian Year'. Catholics all over the world were then required to direct their devotions to the Virgin Mary throughout the year, in particular by daily praying the rosary.