Review by STELLA
Home: New writing is an excellent collection of essays from New Zealand writers. Each essay chosen by editor Thom Conroy takes you on its own journey, personal yet universal. In his introduction, Conroy reflects on the concept of 'home' being at the forefronts of our minds, with increasing homelessness and a growing population of ‘stateless’ people. Several of the essays reflect on the precarious lives of refugees and the travails, as well as the hopes, of migration. Lloyd Jones in 'Proximity' blends his encounters with the homeless and with Syrian refugees in Europe with his childhood memories of what was an acceptable home, with humanity and care. Diane Comer’s reflections and regrets on moving, of crossing the Pacific several times in her lifetime, endlessly seeking ‘home’, planting gardens that will continue to bloom long after she has left, are honest and revealing it seems for both the reader and writer. And leaving, yet not looking back, resonates through Iraqi-born Anna Gailani’s 'A Token of Patience'. And arrival, whether it is actual or virtual, is a concept that creeps into many of these essays. Ingrid Horrocks in 'Oscillations' cleverly talks about those places between memory and the actual, past and present, and finding her ‘home’ – a place true to herself. Sarah Jane Barnett draws on the connection between running and the body, on a certain point of connection that centres and eclipses suffering, creating a sense of home in oneself at a physical and mental level. Other essays point to environment, both urban and natural. Paula Morris’s 'Greys Avenue' is a riff on the layers of her street, on its history and the wider story of the changing urban landscape. The essay is a matrix of her family history; Morris discovered that her great-grandfather had also lived on the street at some stage. In Laurence Fearnley’s essay, she explores her neighbourhood by scent, curious to discover how, by concentrating with this sense of smell, familiar places of home can be recorded and explored anew. 'Home Without Now and Then' takes us into Elizabeth Knox’s memory of her childhood homes, and the homes of her mother - places she can’t inhabit any longer at the right times – needing to use the phone in the Paremata house but finding herself in the Raumati one. This is just a taste of the twenty-two essays. They are honest, moving and thoughtful, various in style and content, all a delight to read. To contemplate what 'home' means to us in a physical, emotional and philosophical sense, Home: New writing is a marker of social and cultural history as well as of politics, on the grand and small scale.