BOOK REVIEW –
by Susan Tarr – Author, Editor and Proof Reader
“WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ISHTAR? by Anne Frandi-Coory is a remarkable portrayal of New Zealand’s earlier Lebanese and Italian Catholic families. Although I was raised in the various vicinities this book covers, I had no idea there were established Lebanese families in New Zealand. And, for me, the whole Catholic religion was shrouded in mystique, so I had very little understanding of what was involved in being a part of the Catholic faith.
Set in New Zealand, the spartan buildings of the Catholic St Vincent’s orphanage mirrored in some part those of Seacliff Mental Asylum (Otago, NZ) in both outlook and care of those in their charge. Both would seem to have lacked a close affection for those who needed it most: the vulnerable and unloved.
This work is an amazing testimony for all mothers, a testimony we can probably all relate to. How many times do we feel inadequate, or feel we could have done better? We should never have such constraints placed on us as a mother to feel either of these. Whatever a mother is capable of at that time, for her child, is sufficient for that time.
As Frandi-Coory bears out, it is always possible to break mindsets, or break the mould, as it is said. I.e. the sins of the father… All it takes is an invincible will, which clearly she had and has.
Frandi-Coory recounts the histories of both her Lebanese and Italian families. She explains how the various mindsets occurred and how they were passed down through the generations.
I found I kept referring to the photographs as I formed opinions on the various players in this tapestry of life.
What is astonishing here, is that Anne Frandi-Coory and I never made a connection until after our respective books were published, in separate countries. It was through reading each others work that we realised our lives were very closely linked. In fact we may well have known each other through a mutual friend (Italian) during our college years in Dunedin, NZ. That is why I can vouch for the events, scenery, time frames and cultures in this amazing work.
It’s absolutely raw in its honesty.
Very well written, it’s a compelling read, from start to finish.
Kudos to Anne Frandi-Coory.
-Susan Tarr 8 October 2014
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