Love At The End Of The Road by Rae Roadley
If I describe this memoir of life on the Kaipara as "charming", it instantly sounds as if I'm sending it down the Damn-With-Faint-Praise chute. I'm not.
It genuinely is charming - as in full of warmth, contentment, fulfilment. It's also honest, engaging, and agreeably mischievous.
Roadley found Rex the farmer charming when she met him at dinner. Well, he enjoyed being an uncle and he also enjoyed roast lamb.
When she stayed at his old villa for the first time, he gave her the Orchard Room, plus a hibiscus for Valentine's Day. And he seemed to like her, even if she did say, "how divine".
In turn, and in spite of her totally unsuitable city, career-woman background, she fell for the remote, peninsula-end farm and its farmer, even if he did laugh uproariously about crashing into his father's ute.
So she meets the steers and dogs; the veranda and the wood-burning stove; the brilliant, fish-filled harbour. She becomes fascinated by the ballroom, six bedrooms and 353 panes of window glass that help make up the homestead, Batley.
She researches it through the National Archives. We hear about the blankets, braces, boat and other goods that helped buy it, its years as a hotel, the slowly changing attitudes towards fences and trees.
Roadley weaves post-hole digging, the Country Club bar, local weddings, and chainsawing macrocarpa into a pleasant narrative that is strengthened and extended by her affection for people - especially Rex, though he still has to learn to put the cutlery back in its drawer.
She includes setbacks and sadness. She's got a good journalist's skill with the details. Bulls smell special when they're doing well; the villainous southern saltmarsh mosquito flits by; the Matakohe Kauri Museum gets several approving mentions. You learn that female oysters are lumpy and males are veiny.
She writes neatly, and over-writes occasionally. Characters seem to converse in flawless grammar.
Some pages read like a blog rather than a book. There are rather earnest accounts of emotions.
It's substantially illustrated with photos contemporary and historic. A narrative that does a good job for the protagonists, the community and the reader. You'll be ... well, charmed.
David Hill is a Taranaki writer.