Sarah's Reviews > The Settling Earth

The Settling Earth by Rebecca  Burns
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4.5 Stars

This book started slow; the first two stories of the anthology felt disjointed and almost a bit ethereal, not a quality I enjoy when I’m readying my occasional short story collection (not something I do often). But once stories three and four happened, I was gobsmacked by the connections I was making and the emotional journey that was taking me on. So the book definitely picks up quickly after the rough start!

The author’s skills at incorporating historical details and setting the New Zealand landscape astounded me. I've never read a historical fiction from New Zealand and finished it. So this material was all new to me. Seeing how that history impacted the men, women, and children who lived it kept me spellbound. I loved how the author explored the juxtaposition of a backwater colonial society with remnants of Victorian morality and standards left over from the old world.

Also, anyone who has watched the Lord of the Rings movies and the extras of that trilogy (*raises her hand*) can be somewhat familiar with New Zealand landscapes and geography. So I could visualize quickly the world in which these individuals found themselves. That’s actually one aspect of the first two stories I didn’t mind, the wide open plains with its lone tree and roaring, lonely winds made me remember some of the descriptions and clips of where they built the Edoras set. I could so picture William’s and Sarah’s homestead there…

The characters showed quite a depth of emotion and personality for this being a collection of short stories, as a consequence only getting to know these men and women for a very short time. My favorite would be the chapter, “Dottie”. That’s the chapter where my brain was blown away at the direction this overall story was taking. The previous chapter’s focus, Phoebe, and then Mrs. Gray in the Dottie chapter is what made this collection for me. The author does an incredible job in jam-packing her limited space with subtle characterization details that intertwine with the overarching story-line to create a true gem of the short story anthology genre.

This was a bit of a slow start, but once the ball got rolling, I was kept spellbound. I adored how the author paid attention to all her elements in equal measure: scene setting, characterization, historical details, and a dramatic story broken up into individual people’s lives. And I do think that slow start was probably just because I don’t read short-story collections often. So I had to get into the mode. I highly recommend this collection of stories illustrating the lives of the early colonials to New Zealand and on the people they encountered, the Maori. It’s a wonderful collection.

Note: Book received for free from author via Net Galley in exchange for honest review.
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Reading Progress

January 14, 2015 – Shelved
January 14, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
January 14, 2015 – Shelved as: free-from-author-or-publisher
January 15, 2015 – Started Reading
January 16, 2015 –
January 17, 2015 –
January 18, 2015 – Shelved as: new-zealand-fiction
January 18, 2015 – Shelved as: 19th-century-historical-fiction
January 18, 2015 – Shelved as: short-story-collection
January 18, 2015 – Finished Reading

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