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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

PAV Deconstructed by Kathy Derrick Jac Jenkins and Claire Gordon

Let me say at the outset that I loathe pavlova. Dislike it immensely. The very thought of it puts my teeth on edge. I can almost feel the grittiness of all of that sugar just by thinking about it. And don’t get me started on the soft meringue middle. Ugh! But I love this book all about my least favourite dessert. It’s joyful, funny, witty and charming. The design is delicious. It is a wonderful book, and I predict it will sell well. I hope so. Like a perfect version of the baked pudding it heroes, the book has been a labour of love.

Of course, the origin debate is mentioned a few times tongue in cheek, and I really enjoyed reading the introduction. Perhaps unusually, as an Aussie-born Kiwi lass, I have a lot to say about the Aussies stealing our stuff. They do it all the time. I particularly resent their attempts to pass off Crowded House and Keith Urban as their own. It’s shocking how often it happens.

And even as I would definitely pass on a plate of pavlova, I can still see how transparently deceitful it is of the Australians to lay claim to the pavlova. Of course it was invented here in the 1920s to celebrate the visit of the Russian-born ballerina Anna Pavlova. Although even Wikipedia has a bob or two each way on where it originated, describing pavlova as “a meringue-based dessert originating in either Australia or New Zealand”. The cheek of it! Next they’ll be telling us the great race-horse Phar Lap was born in rural New South Wales. For the record, the horse was born in Timaru.

I mentioned that I was charmed by this book, so perhaps rather than focusing on birth conspiracies I should mention why. The anecdotes are relatable, enjoyable and amusing. The illustrations are delightfully quirky, and – while there are too many highlights to mention, I put forward a glorious double-page spread on pages 48-9 as but one example.

I love the cover, the end plates of mushy meringue-like layers, and I particularly admire the design detail of a perfectly-placed page-turner. This is just perfection to my way of thinking. Unlike pavlova.


Reviewed by Peta Stavelli

Pavlova Press


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