The Smallest Continent: Journeys Through New Zealand Landscapes, by Derek Grzelewski

There is no doubt that New Zealand is a beautiful country. From our plethora of stunning beaches to the thick rainforests, to the clear night skies of the Mackenzie Country and hills brimming with gold, we have it lucky. Derek Grzelewski knows this too, and in this book he writes of his journeys through our country.

His first major magazine assignment was about New Zealand’s glaciers and since then he has been a prolific contributor to magazines including the New Zealand Geographic, Australian Geographic, and Smithsonian. He is the author of Going To Extremes, and in his other life is a professional fly-fishing guide. So he is well qualified to take us on a journey throughout Aotearoa.

The Smallest Continent, however, is more than just someone pontificating about how great we have it. Grzelewski looks closely at our landscapes, their power and the meaning they have in our lives. It is a personal journey in uncovering the intricacies of our country as well as a record of his growing up in his perception of landscapes and the sense of our place within them.

Grzelewski tells tales of the people who helped shape our country, of Mackenzie Country stargazing, the pioneering exploits of West Coast pilots and of hunting for gold. We sculpt clay, sled with snow dogs, and go hunting for wild thyme in Central Otago, among other things.

The thirteen stories included in the book are extremely well researched. The history lesson can be extended even further, with a handy list of other books you can turn to if you want to know more included at the end. Beautiful colour photographs pepper the book. My only complaint was that there wasn’t more, although Grzelewski does paint a picture with his rich writing.

The Smallest Continent will make you fall in love with New Zealand even more and give you an itch to get out and breathe it all in – which is exactly what Grzelewski would want.

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Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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