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A Land of Two Halves

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  432 ratings  ·  70 reviews
After10 years in New Zealand, Joe Bennett asked himself what on earth he was doing there. Other than his dogs, what was it about these two small islands on the edge of the world that had kept him—an otherwise restless traveller—for really much longer than they seemed to deserve? Bennett thought he'd better pack his bag and find out. Hitching around both the intriguingly
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Paperback, 314 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published January 1st 2004)
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Judy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to New Zealand would be an apt name for this book. But A Land of Two Halvessuits it well. Joe Bennett, a South Island newspaper columnist, for whatever reason (I suspect publicity) decided to hitchhike his way around the North and South islands of New Zealand. He proceeds to chat up locals and the good samaritans that pick him up ala John Steinbeck in Travels With Charley: In Search of America and has a sense of humor akin to Bill Bryson, so why do I feel let down by this ...more
Jaclyn
Apr 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
I really did not like this book. I bought it to read on my return flight from NZ in Jan and I just finished it - 4 months later. I love travel biographies in general and my husband is from NZ, so I was excited to read this book, but in the end I only finished it because I can not leave a book unfinished and forced myself to finish it. I will admit that the second half was a bit better than the first, and so I am glad I forced myself to finish it. However, overall I find Joe to be arrogant, ...more
Kathleen Dixon
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: n-z-author, travel, nz
I enjoy Joe Bennett's writing. When I used to get the daily newspaper, his column was a must-read. I like his (often) self-deprecating humour, and I really like his turn-of-phrase. He's clearly educated and well-read without sounding pompous, and he 'calls a spade a spade' (and do I or do I not put any punctuation in that idiom? I feel it ought to have a comma, but there's certainly no pause for breath when saying it aloud).

I don't usually like travel books. I knew a couple of women who
...more
Feistytiger
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was looking forward to reading this book, having not much knowledge of the land of New Zealand I wanted to find out from someone who had travelled it, what the place was really like and if it was different from how I imagined it. However this book was of a slight disappointment.

Bennett hitchhiked across the country and stopped off in many small towns. The south island being a lot more quite and country side than the north. However it seemed he did a lot more in cars than in each area, and a
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Rob
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Bill Bryson has got a lot to answer for - the rise of the knockabout, jokey travelogue continues apace and this is a prime example - Bennett tours Aotearoa and ends up with hardly a good thing to say - yes, New Zealand can seem like it is trapped in 1950s amber; yes, it's parochial; yes, they are a bunch of egg chasers - but glaciers, mountains, fjords and caves full of glow worms are not boring - not to me anyway.

As a half-Kiwi myself, I had been looking forward to the read and my enjoyment was
...more
thereadytraveller
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Having relocated from Britain and lived in New Zealand for the past 16 years, Bennett decides to hitchhike his way around the country to help him make a decision whether he will continue to stay living there.

The path of his journey is somewhat dictated by where the people picking him up are heading which ensures that he visits a number of places that are off the usual tourist trail and makes for a more authentic exploration of the country. Imparting a fair amount of history on each place as he
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Sue
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oh, this was absolutely fabulous! Written with so much more wit and humour than anything Bill Bryson has done - sorry Bill, but true.
It begins with a synopsis of Bennett's life up to the point of writing this book and he goes on to very humorously document his travels - firstly around the South Island, then he catches a plane to the North Island where the fun continues. He hitches mainly, except for the hire car in North Island.
I absolutely recommend this book...it's a great read!
Martin
Sep 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Tolerably well written and pretty funny in places, this book comes from discussions with locals as the author hitchhikes around New Zealand, and that lack of a structure shows. Even the idea of the hitchhiking at one point goes away on a whim. Because of this, the author’s attempts to say something meaningful about a national culture of New Zealand- even if only to say that countries are too varied to have one (as I suspect Bennett would rather peevishly claim) - gets drowned out under so much ...more
Jessie
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A memoir of hitchhiking around New Zealand after living there for 16 years. Bennett is a grumpy writer in the vein of Bill Bryson, with a more sourpuss attitude when it comes to, for example, tourist traps and the idea of God. I suspect these views are to blame for the middling (and undeservedly so) reviews on Goodreads.

I found Bennett's snark about New Zealand to be quite refreshing. He is a man who clearly has a great fondness for the country, but who doesn't wear rose-colored glasses and
...more
Helen
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was my second time reading this. I think I enjoyed it more this time. The author has quite a glass half full outlook and when I read it last I hoped for Bill Bryson style laughs. He doesn’t share Mr Bryson’s style but I found this time I was able to enjoy his more cynical approach to life in New Zealand.
It has left me with a renewed desire to revisit the islands and to explore more of this wonderful country. I also felt I understood the history and inhabitants better.
Definitely worth
...more
Doreen Fritz
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
I picked this up because we'll soon be visiting our son and his family, who are spending 4 months on the south island of New Zealand. This book follows a teacher who hitchhikes around the entire country, recording his experiences and impressions as he goes. It was fun to "see" some places that we might soon be visiting, and yet I got bogged down at times with his excessive use of similes. Other than that minor annoyance, it was enjoyable to follow his interactions with those who picked him up or ...more
Alex
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
I feel that me giving this 4 stars comes down to three things, 1. I'm male and this was written in a very male orientated way, 2. I lived in New Zealand during the time Joe travelled so I can to relate to the current events (of 2003) and 3. I've travelled around a vast area of New Zealand visiting most of the places Joe visited. If it hadn't been for these 3 things, his writing and personality probably would have worn me down and I would have struggled to finish this book.
Alyson Walton
Aug 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Well, this book is a slow burner.
I found the authors style a little too sarcastic for my liking.
Having never read anything about New Zealand I really didn't know what to expect but I don't feel this book did the country justice.
It took a while to read and felt like to much effort was required to get through it.
Robert Fritz
Sep 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Since my son is going to be in New Zealand for 4+ months (and since we'll be visiting in October), I decided to read this book to get a feel for the country. At times I really enjoyed the author's turn of phrase, and at time the book was just ok. All in all it was a good way to get to know the culture of both islands which make up the country. I'd give it a 3.4 if that were possible.
George Foord
Sep 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
I have travelled to New Zealand and loved it, but this book lost my interest in the first 50 pages and I gave up on it...
Tim Howe
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
One of the very few travel "memoirs" I could find dealing with New Zealand so went for it. Mildly amusing in parts, irritating in others. All round, not half as entertaining as "Mustn't grumble", Bennett's take on the Brits.
Rita
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
I started this book while touring New Zealand but stopped because although witty the writer is curmudgeonly and miserable. Despite the original ambition to hitchhike most of the North Island is travelled by car. He drinks a lot of beer in bars smokes and stays in dreary motels. It's hardly positive and his conclusion that he will stay seems surprising.
Eventually finished the book but couldn't recommend it.
Xanthi
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it
When you read a travel narrative, you hear as much about the person who is relating their experiences, as you do of where they go and what you see. The author is a very, very funny man who is not only able to laugh at others but also himself. I found myself laughing out loud whilst reading this book. The book also brought back some fond memories I had of a trip I took to NZ a few years ago. I only saw a small portion of the nation, but what I saw, I liked.
The downside of this book, for me, was
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Mrsgaskell
Nov 18, 2010 rated it liked it
The author is a forty-something year old Englishman who after spending 15 years in New Zealand decides to hitchhike around the country which has become his adopted home. Overall, I found it disappointing, too much about his religious views, his pub-crawling and the characters who gave him rides. I would have liked to learn more about New Zealand. The author’s attempts at humour mostly failed with me, he’s no Bill Bryson. What I liked most about the book was a comment about the Canadian prairies: ...more
Renee
Dec 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-memoir
This book fell into my lap back at my bookstore before I left. It had come in with some trade a customer had dropped off and my coworker, knowing I was about to move to NZ brought it to me. It was going to cost me not much more than a dollar so I brought it home, not worrying too much about if it would be good or not.

Joe Bennett moved to New Zealand from England in 1987 and had been living in the country for 15 years (at the time the book was written) when he decided to hitchhike around the
...more
Turi
Apr 27, 2008 rated it liked it
I started out not really liking this one, but ended up with a weird admiration for the author's viewpoint by the end of it. First off, the title is "A Land of Two Halves: An Accidental Tour of New Zealand." Subtitle is a misnomer; Bennett specifically heads out to hitchhike around the two islands; nothing accidental about it. Unless that's referring to how he originally came to New Zealand (as a visitor who ended up staying); but that was years ago and shouldn't really apply... Anyway, slight ...more
jennifer
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Bennett is an Englishman who moved to New Zealand in the mid-eighties and had taught in Christchurch for sixteen years at the time this book was written. Now 46 years old, he realizes that he's never explored his adopted country so decides to do what he had done all over the world as a young man- stick out his thumb and see where it takes him. He hitches along the perimeter of first the south island, which is less populated and largely working class, then does the same on the north island, ...more
Sarah
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Whenever I hear Joe Bennett on RadioNZ's "The Panel" I think "What a grumpy old cynic" and turn the radio off. In his writing he still comes across as a bit of a grumpy old cynic, but with more generosity (not sure if that makes sense). This book is not really a travel book about Aotearoa New Zealand, it's just Joe hitchiking around, not really bothering to do anything but visit pubs, stay in motels and talk to kiwis (and sometimes non-kiwis). He is honest about the people he meets and I think ...more
Rebecca
Jun 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
I read this book like nearly two years ago, when NZ was just a twinkle in my eye. I read this book when I was in Hawaii in 2006. I remember enjoying it a lot, and I really wanted to read it again, especially knowing where things are now, after my trip with the parents. At first I thought I may want to actually put down money and buy this book, but after rereading it, it was kind of annoying. The guy bitches about how dirty and gross everything is in NZ which is as far from the truth as I could ...more
Becky
Nov 26, 2008 rated it liked it
I struggled a bit with forming my opinion of this book, because while I was interested in the perspective of NZ from the hitchhiker's eyes, he had a tendency to write heavily about the negative, as if he thought that was the way to differentiate himself from a guidebook. (At the same time, he's got a point about a lot of the canned tourist "attractions" one inevitably finds when traveling, which are much mentioned throughout.) He does manage to delve deeeper than many travel writers do into ...more
Marshall
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really like a well-written travel narrative, and Joe Bennett is one of the best. I found him because of his more recent book Where Underpants Come From. His smart and tartly casual observational style makes for an excellent read: he comes across as a down-to-earth guy who likes a pint and a good game on TV, while also evincing intelligence in every sentence (even when he's writing about himself doing stupid things, he puts words together so well that you can let it slide). I want to visit New ...more
Katie Whitt
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm giving this two stars because I didn't actually finish it and I want to give the author the benefit of the doubt. Some people said that the second half of this book was better, but I honestly can't justify spending anymore time trying to get through it. I recently went on a trip to New Zealand and fell in love with the country, however I would be hard pressed to make the same claim of Joe Bennett since he doesn't seem to be fond of New Zealand or New Zealanders at all. I thought this might ...more
Oggie Ramos
I seldom quit once I get started on a book. There are exceptions though the last couple of years as I feel it could be a waste of time if I were to finish the book if I'm not enjoying it. This book is one of them. Bennett's writing is okay, his attitude is not. It's hard to enjoy a book if the author seems to be not enjoying his adventure. I thought the earlier reviews about his arrogance and fault-finding were exaggerations; unfortunately they're not. He has something to say bad about everyone ...more
Laura
Jan 23, 2016 rated it liked it
I read this book in anticipation of a planned spring trip to New Zealand. The author is a Brit who had lived in New Zealand for 15 years, teaching school and writing for newspapers. His book is a travelogue a la Bill Bryson - lots of tongue-in-cheek humor - reporting on a trip in which he traveled the two islands mostly by hitchhiking. Some of the more interesting commentary dealt with his drivers - people who were willing to pick up a middle-aged hitchhiker - but there was some good history and ...more
Sarah
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Honestly it seems that some of the people who have written previous reviews of the book seem to have a personal grudge against the man, or at least the way he makes his living. Although by no means a travel guide to NZ, this book is beautifully written and a brutally honest portrayl in more of the style of a memoir. Joe Bennett highlights the positive, the negative and the neutral of living in one of the youngest and most isolated countries in the world. There were passages that made me cry not ...more
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Book Loving Kiwis: A Land of Two Halves 11 14 Aug 04, 2013 02:44AM  

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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Julian "Joe" Bennett (born 20 April 1957) is a writer and columnist living in Lyttelton, New Zealand.

Born in England, he emigrated to New Zealand when he was twenty-nine. Bennett is a columnist for Christchurch's newspaper The Press and the author of several books.

“This is the Southland burr, the only distinctive regional accent in the country. It's a soft appealing noise, deriving, I presume, from the Sottish settlers, but resembling no known Scottish accent. It's simply Kiwi English with added r's.” 0 likes
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