Title: The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns with guest writer Shelly Davies
Genre: Literary/Historical Fiction – Short Story Collection
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Length: 128 pages
Publication Date: December 16, 2014
Rating – 5/5
Marriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant — The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.
Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities — these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.
I’d like to preface this review by saying a big thank you to the author Rebecca Burns for giving me the opportunity to read this collection in exchange for an honest review!
The setting for this collection of ten short stories is during the British colonization of New Zealand. These ten stories explore the struggles of primarily women, but also a few men during this period. These struggles involve racism, marriage struggles, financial struggles, ethical struggles and so much more.
When I read the description for this collection, I knew I had to read it. I’m definitely a fan of historical fiction and the more I read short story collections the more I really like them. I’m happy to say that I’ve read a few of them this year which is a lot more than in past years. This book was no exception, I loved it. This collection was actually a bit different than what I have experienced in the past in that while each of these ten stories can definitely stand on their own, they are also ingeniously woven together to create a cohesive whole. I thought that was really great and really enjoyed that aspect of it.
I loved the writing style which was very descriptive and just overall, nicely done. Each of these stories was very gripping to me and interesting. It’s definitely a light read but with some heavy themes and enough description that it feels like a whole novel which is REALLY hard for a short story collection to pull off but this one definitely did that for me. I enjoyed reading each of the stories…this book had alot of dark moments but also some very light moments and I really feel like because of the balance of dark and light, this collection as a whole really made an impression on me. I just love how the setting plays such a huge role in the lives of all of these characters. It really made me think about how our surroundings impact various aspects of our lives.
I really wish I had seen more of a few of the characters’ stories like in the cases of Pip, Miss Swainson and Dottie and her mother. Poor Dottie, her story definitely pulled at my heartstrings as did in the case of Laura and Sarah. I ended up giving this book a five star rating because I enjoyed it so much, when a book evokes such strong emotion in me like the heart ache I felt when reading this I just can’t help but give it a high rating. To me any book that can do that is exceptional, especially when that books makes you think. A good book while entertaining, should also make you think, inspire you and move you. This collection did that. All of these stories were interesting and the book itself was a super light read. Fans of historical fiction will love this collection!
About the Author
Rebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories, over thirty of which have been published online or in print. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011, winner of the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition in 2013 (and runner-up in 2014), winner of the Black Pear Press Short Story Competition in 2014, and has been profiled as part of the University of Leicester’s “Grassroutes Project”-a project that showcases the 50 best transcultural writers in the county.
The Settling Earth is her second collection of short stories. Her debut collection, Catching the Barramundi, was published in 2012 – also by Odyssey Books – and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Award in 2013. The Settling Earth was also longlisted for the Edge Hill in March 2015.