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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Who lived there? Nicola McCloy and Jane King

Who lived there? is exactly the type of book we all need right now to inspire our backyard adventures. In fact, I can see some people creating a list to tick off as they travel around the country on an immersive adventure, looking at the people and stories behind the façades of the buildings they inhabited.

From the cover featuring a humble tin crib/bach/call it what you will, Nicola McCloy uncovers the hidden past of diverse places, while Jane King’s photos augment the tales of hardship, heroism and sometimes notoriety.

The contemporary images are supplemented by historic photos to offer a more complete picture of the structure and its fascinating past. While there are many humble places, industrial buildings and elegant structures of note and national interest - like Katherine Mansfield’s childhood home - there are also some other truly quirky tales to boggle the imagination.

My favourite was the story of a Devonport lawyer who left his wife and family, ostensibly to sail around the world on his yacht. At the outset of his adventure and without an audience to witness his departure, instead of heading out to sea from his family home he turned the opposite way and sailed up the harbour to a Henderson creek where he lived in relative obscurity for 35 years.

Among numerous other buildings featured are Donovan's General Store in Okarito Mt Cook Police Barracks in Wellington; Couldrey House at Wenderholm, near Auckland; the old School of Mines in Thames; Rush Munroe's Ice Cream Garden in Hastings; the National Tobacco Company in Napier; Langlois-Eteveneaux House in Akaroa and the Empire Tavern in Dunedin. So with such a diverse range of offerings throughout the country, it can easily be seen how a road trip might be structured around this delightful book, which only scratches the surface of our hidden national treasures. Who lived there? was shortlisted for NZ Booklovers Lifestyle Book of the Year 2022.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli



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