Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A New Zealand Pionneering Series

No One Went to Town by Phyllis Johnston

I learned about the first two books of this series in about 1983.  The daughter of the author was reading one out aloud to her class and my daughter was a pupil in her class and she came home and told me about the story. I brought the first book, No One Went to Town and enjoyed it. About four weeks ago a friend lent me sequel four in the series which I didn’t know existed.  So I have now read the four books.

At the beginning of the century the Tarrant family were pioneers, making a farm in the steep hills of Taranaki. They built a hut from ponga trees, felled the bush, burnt it, and sowed grass in the warm ashes. They made a large vegetable garden and built a proper wooden house for themselves. Everyone worked hard, even May, who was just five years old. The only time anyone went to town, out along the rough & muddy track through the bush, was when someone was badly injured.

Ordinary accidents were treated at home. When Claude gashed his leg, using a forbidden axe, Mother had to stitch up the cut with black cotton as he lay yelling on the kitchen table. Later, the daredevil Claude tried to fly from the top of the new house... luckily, this time, he was only bruised. (The boys decided it would be better not to tell Father about this particular accident!)

Every incident is based on fact. The stories were told to the author (May's daughter) by May, Phil and Claude themselves, from vivid memories of their exciting early lives.

 In the second sequel the Tarrants are clearing land near Piopio in the King County, New Zealand.  At first the conditions are too tough for May and her mother, who spend the winter in Te Kuiti which was a land rush town.Staying at the Grand Hotel is exciting, and May sees her first moving picture and is invited to a Maori wedding.
In the spring she travels to Piopio and out to the Paemako farm by coach and sledge.When May turns nine she is old enough to turn the grindstone, milk the cows and ride a horse.

In the third book it is 1909 and May is eleven.

It is now 1912 and May is fourteen and she is an apprentice to a dressmaker.  Her ten-hour working day is wearisome, town life is strange, and she is homesick for the farming country she has left.A courageous old lady recognises May’s strength and tells her, “You don’t look a lily-livered girl!”  May meets Ken from the bank when she fills the kettle up at the tap for morning tea.  She starts competitive swimming and World War 1 starts.  At seventeen May gets engaged to Wally who is going to war in two weeks.