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The Wideawake Hat

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From the Scottish Highlands to remote New Zealand, life was harsh for the early pioneers who ventured into a new land far across the seas where opportunity beckoned for those who could endure the hardships.

On Boxing Day, 1848 Sophia steps ashore with her new husband, George, and begins her perilous journey inland to seek a place to call home. Her hope for the child she carries to be born in a house that they build together does indeed come true. Sophia and George are joined by other young folk who form a small but growing community of fellow pioneers banding together to forge a life in this land of promise. However, not all pioneers are honest and true, as Sophia discovers to her cost. When tragedy strikes, the enigmatic James Mackenzie steps in to help our family and Sophia’s life takes an unexpected turn.

James Mackenzie is not a character of fiction. There is no doubt he existed. In fact, the high plateau where Sophia settled now bears his name. But the tales that surround his conviction and imprisonment for sheep rustling are shrouded in mystery. No-one knows what became of him for sure, though stories abound. Along with his clever and faithful collie dog Friday, his exploits have become legends. Perhaps there is more to tell of James Mackenzie and his influence on the remotely beautiful high country, surrounded by snow-capped mountains…

399 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 1, 2018

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About the author

Amanda Giorgis

7 books49 followers
Amanda Giorgis was born in Somerset, England. She emigrated to New Zealand in 2008 and moved to the beautiful Mackenzie Basin.

Amanda writes while looking out onto the flat plains with snow-capped mountains beyond. It is a place where it is easy to find inspiration for stories of early pioneers, who made this unique place their home.

She shares her home with her husband, Terry and three rescued huntaway dogs, Nemo, Jess and Ted, some chickens, who are more ornamental than productive, ten acres of wild garden and the dark skies of the Southern Hemisphere.

When not writing, Amanda rings church bells and enjoys photography, gardening and finding out about her family history. On lazy days, she gets the knitting needles out.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews
421 reviews22 followers
March 27, 2019
From the Scottish highlands to the South Island of New Zealand, life was harsh for early pioneers, but Sophia and George McKay had hopes for a better future when they stepped ashore on Boxing Day 1848.The reader takes the journey with them as they travel inland to begin a life farming sheep in the Mackenzie Basin.
In her preface, author Amanda Giorgis explains “the area takes its name from James MacKenzie, who with his black and white collie dog Friday, famously rustled a thousand sheep and took them into the basin in mid-1850”. Living in the area she has explored much of the area so has been able to portray vividly the landscape and conditions to which the early settlers would encounter. The story of James MacKenzie caught the imagination of Giorgis and a friend as they were discovering more and more places associated with his name, and so the seed of this story were sown. “Here is my interpretation of James’ story born from the other sets of footprints found when he was arrested with the sheep.”
I love this area of New Zealand and have enjoyed a number of trips and holidays there, but this book brought it to life for me again with the strong historical story line which had me engrossed from the first page.
So it is an interesting read as it is pure fiction with solid, resilient characters ideal for the pioneering adventure they set out on but the author has woven historical details cleverly into the book making it an intriguing read. The interaction of the new settlers with local Maori has also been skillfully incorporated and the use of the Maori language adds intensity at appropriate times.
Amanda Giorgis was born in Somerset, England, emigrating to New Zealand in 2008, living in the MacKenzie basin. I look forward to further writing by this author as The Wideawake Hat is her first novel , and the first in the Applecross Saga. It will be of interest to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with some suspense as well as those with an interest in farming.

1,548 reviews28 followers
October 15, 2021
The Wideawake Hat by Amanda Giorgis is the first novel in the Applecross Saga Series This was the first novel I had read by this author. This is a story of those brave people who traveled across the world to see a new life in the various countries down under. They traveled from the Scottish Highlands to remote New Zealand, life was harsh for the early pioneers who ventured into a new land far across the seas where opportunity beckoned for those who could endure the hardships. The story while fictional involves people who were real. James Mackenzie was not a fictional character of fiction. He truly existed, but of the many stories told of him it is hard to know what is true and what might just have some of the old Highlands mixed in. I found that Amanda writing was amazing. She is a talented and gifted author. It is not easy to write a story that intertwines
real history with the fictional story. This is a brilliant read! It pulled me in from beginning to end and held my attention. The world building is detailed and imaginative. This novel has strong, well-developed characters and an interesting story line that keeps you turning the pages. I recommend this novel and would read more novels by this author. Amanda did a beautiful job setting up her saga and I can’t wait to see what happens in her following novels! I gave this honest, voluntary review after being given a free copy of the novel
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1,689 reviews391 followers
February 9, 2020
The Wideawake Hat - This is my first read by this author and I enjoyed reading it. The conversational writing style made it seem like we were sitting on the porch listening to what was happening in the neighborhood. OK, different neighborhood, different country, different time period, but still neighborly.

The various storylines are as interesting as the vast assortment of characters. As anywhere, in any era, there are the caring, supporting neighbors, along with the dodgy and the criminal characters. Having an assortment of nationalities and the native people working together for survival and community made this a difficult book to put down.

There are plenty of personalities, including the animals and New Zealand, a gamut of emotions, and hardships and successes in this quick to read, historical period, intriguing novel. I found this author on Booksprout. 4*
June 24, 2023
I got this book through Voracious Readers, and it was a real page turner. I enjoyed the details of early life in New Zealand, and the building of shelters ,and the foods that evolved over the years. In some ways it was perhaps a little simplistic, but that added to the charm of it. Having Friday the dog tell his story himself, but then it became quite normal. Most of all the characters all became real, from Sophia and Nancy, to the Maori element which was by no means a token insert.
All in all a good basic insight into early New Zealand
31 reviews1 follower
February 21, 2022
I loved this book !

I've often wondered about pioneer life and its hardships and this story brought it to life for me . Our forefathers were most definitely made of stronger fibers than we are. I so admire their strength. Sophie and George, their friends and neighbors were all good and loving people. Thank you Amanda for a wonderful story with such strong and loving characters for me to appreciate.
1,132 reviews2 followers
September 16, 2021
I liked this book so much! I read it on my Kindle.

It's a saga of a family moving from Scotland to New Zealand, their hardships and trials, loves and losses, faith and achievements. SUCH a good tale!
441 reviews14 followers
January 26, 2022
The hardships and joys of pioneering in New Zealand, friendships formed, children born, a story that drew me in and did not let go. Although I have not been to the South Island, a close friend lived in the area so the names of the towns were familiar, which adds to the enjoyment of reading it. Received as a complimentary copy from the author in return for an honest review.
July 4, 2023
Great Read!

A very positive feeling of love and life!!
The characters were relatable and likeable!
I'm ready for the next book!
May 15, 2022
Young pioneers in New Zealand

Beautiful saga of struggles in a new land, of families, sheep farming, of joy and heartbreak, of close friends, babies and building new lives in harsh conditions often with aid from local Maori.
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1,820 reviews50 followers
April 28, 2022
A young couple take off for New Zealand to start a new life where the possibilities are far better then in Scotland. They are not quite sure where they will find suitable land and keep traveling until they find the almost perfect spot. They settle down and eventually meet another young couple who have settled not too far away. They all become fast friends and help each other in all endeavors. One day George took off to find any sheep that had strayed. The weather turns ominous and a deluge had the rivers running wild. George dies and leaves Sophie pregnant and husbandless. The community is really helpful but it takes another man to finally break through Sophie's grief.

James Mackenzie had shown up one day and was helping the young couple. This book is more about his life which according to the author is a true one. He definitely gets in a bit of trouble here and there--but did everything he could to aid Sophie and her fatherless young son that he possibly could. Eventually they marry--and still troubles hound them. He and his dog Friday were absolutely incredible!

There is a happy ending to this tale which will make your heart full--if not laughing a bit at how it became a happy ending!
November 26, 2018
I have a tendency to read historical stories, and this time, it is a local one, set in an area I know reasonably well, featuring a character that I had some knowledge of. I enjoyed the story, and the characters, both the fictional ones as well as the historical ones. A nice introduction to the geographical area, and to the historical details.
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173 reviews8 followers
July 14, 2023
This was an enjoyable book that follows a family relocating from Scotland to New Zealand on a pioneering adventure. It includes a sense of the unknown, with the hardships and joys that go along with new territory. There is a good handful of well established characters - some you love, and some you love to despise. The overall storyline is nicely paced and is a pleasant read. A great beginning to a series!

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author via Voracious Readers Only*
1 review1 follower
November 25, 2018
I love this book. The characterisation of the pioneers and the Maori people involved in the story, is engaging and engrossing. The telling of the journey and the developing settlement of Marytown captures the imagination. The tragedies, which occur, will bring a tear, but very realistic given the mid 19th century setting. The story involves the intriguing figure of James Mackenzie, a freebooter accused of sheep rustling. What happened to him? Well, you will need to read this novel to find out.
3 reviews
November 26, 2018
This tale of the early settlers in New Zealand was gripping stuff. Great characters and storyline meant it was hard to put the book down. The story is a mixture of fact and fiction but it all weaves together very well. Looking forward to Book 2.
1 review
September 19, 2019
I so enjoyed The Wideawake Hat and would certainly recommend to anyone who likes to read about New Zealand's early settlers [I read it as a fictional story based on fact]. I congratulate Amanda Giorgis and look forward to her next book which I believe is hitting the shelves as I type.
July 19, 2021
This book describes a very different New Zealand as pictured in videos

Love the characters that seem too enjoy family, community, and hard work while still having time to celebrate important events
November 25, 2018
What a great read, just couldn’t put it down. Can’t wait for the next book to find out how the saga continues.
40 reviews2 followers
June 8, 2021

Not a fan. Lumbering boredom at its best. The timeline is confusing and the characters uninteresting. Would not recommend this .
3 reviews
June 24, 2021
A tale of New Zealand

A thoroughly intriguing saga of the life of pioneers in New Zealand. Mkes me want to try it myself someday.
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350 reviews38 followers
November 5, 2021
This is a beautiful story about true love and friendship; even the dogs are loyal.

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67 reviews3 followers
August 9, 2023
The hardships and joys of pioneering in New Zealand, friendships formed, children born, a story that drew me in and did not let go.
Profile Image for Julie Baker.
115 reviews7 followers
September 10, 2023
This book has its moments of goodness but for the most part is a homestead story that you’ve heard before. Characters had depth and you did rally behind them. It was an enjoyable read.
1 review
March 8, 2019
A light well written insight into the life of a Legend of New Zealand

A light hearted, part fact, part fiction, look at the legend of James Mackenzie and other young settlers, finding their way in their new home on the South Island of New Zealand. Very well written. Loved it, highly recommended!
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23 reviews

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