Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Land of Two Halves” as Want to Read:
A Land of Two Halves
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Land of Two Halves

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  513 ratings  ·  79 reviews
After 10 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 intriguingl
Paperback, 314 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Simon & Schuster UK (first published January 1st 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Land of Two Halves, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Land of Two Halves

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  513 ratings  ·  79 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Land of Two Halves
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, negat ...more
Kathleen Dixon
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: n-z-author, nz, travel
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 absolute
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 lo
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
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
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's a great read!
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 t ...more
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 isn'
Steve's Book Stuff
Joe Bennett hitchhikes across New Zealand, and lives to write about it.

Bennett, a transplanted Brit living and working in New Zealand since 1987 (the book was published in 2004) clearly loves his adopted country, even though the conceit of this book is that it's about a quest to determine whether he should stay on in NZ after his elderly dog passes on, or return to England.

Written in a breezy style this travelogue follows the acerbic, middle-aged author as he makes his way first around the South
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was lent to me by a good freind, Mark. I read it wislt in NZ. It covers a guy, Joe Bennett, who decides he hasn't seen much of his country so hitch hikes round both the south and north island. Great book. The author is very funny and reminds me somewhat of Bill Brison. The book contains a good amount of information and interesting facts. I also took some inspiration for places to visit while I'm here. I wish it covered more of Rotorua where I have spent most of my time in NZ thus far, ...more
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 read
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
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read, nice wry observations of people and encounters, not a deep and meaningful 'insight' into whatever people think NZ is/should be. However, every so often, he concisely and without extravagance expresses the nuances of what living in this country is about (or at least is for me, a 5th generation NZer). No, not a pretty travelogue of wonderful people and gorgeous landscapes; instead a much more real, honest and engaging look at who we are. Shame he didn't spend more time in the north ...more
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. ...more
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. ...more
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.
Mar 09, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bin, fiction
Incredibly pessimistic view of his travels, the book got worse and worse as Joe went from town to town describing them in the least passionate way. I thought this book would inspire my travel to New Zealand but I wish I’d never read it so I could form my own opinions about the place. Don’t read this unless you want the alleged (I’ve never been) beauty of NZ to be ruined for you.
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Although almost 20 years old Joe Bennett's observations as he hitches around New Zealand are witty and accurate. It is good to look back at how things were compared to today. Keep on writing those columns Joe. ...more
Aug 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
I got this book in NZ, loved it for the memories and the subjective it detailed descriptions, got a little lost on me though, because it was in English, and that’s my second language. That said, I would recommend it to anyone interested in traveling/backpacking in NZ
David Corleto-Bales
A fun, but rather selective tour of both the north and south islands of New Zealand by teacher Joe Bennett, who mostly hitch-hikes his way all over the country. He avoids the major cities and seems to mostly avoid much of substance, but it is enjoyable and entertaining nonetheless.
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. ...more
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...
Mark Rowney
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
A poor man's Bill Bryson, but entertaining enough. ...more
Claire Brear
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed the author's dry humour, small town observations and unpretentious approach to travel. ...more
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.
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
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
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 cou
Turi Becker
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 di ...more
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, shari ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Book Loving Kiwis: A Land of Two Halves 11 14 Aug 04, 2013 02:44AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Breaking
  • The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas
  • Bessborough
  • The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
  • Broken Music
  • Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time
  • The Heart of the Antarctic: The Farthest South Expedition 1907-1909
  • The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
  • The Pillars of Hercules
  • The City Of Light: The Hidden Journal of the Man Who Entered China Four Years Before Marco Polo
  • Kiwis Might Fly
  • The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler's Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia
  • Nine Lives
  • Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia
  • Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
  • The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
  • Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America's Wild Frontier
  • Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents
See similar books…
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.


News & Interviews

The internet, on balance, has been something of a mixed-blessing for our species. But one thing everyone agrees on: It’s a great place to watch...
12 likes · 1 comments
“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
More quotes…