Song of the Spirits continues the soaring saga begun with In the Land of the Long White Cloud, as the founding families of colonial New Zealand experience trials and triumphs of friendship, romance, and unforgettable adventure.
Elaine O'Keefe is the radiant grand-daughter of Gwyneira McKenzie, who made her way to New Zealand to take a wealthy sheep baron's hand in marriage in In the Land of the Long White Cloud. Elaine inherited not only her grandmother's red hair but also her feisty spirit, big heart, and love of the land. When William Martyn, a handsome young Irishman of questionable integrity, walks into her life, she succumbs rapidly to his charms. Only to have her heart broken when her sensual half-Maori cousin Kura Warden arrives for a visit and draws William away.
Though both young women must endure hardships and disappointments as they learn to live with the choices they make, each of them also discovers an inner resilience - and eventually finds love and happiness in new, unexpected places. Tested by the harsh realities of colonial life, both girls mature into spirited young women with a greater understanding of the challenges - and joys - of love, friendship, and family.
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Rated of 5
WDH (New Port Richey, FL)
When I found out I was receiving this book, I quickly read the first one. While Song of the Spirits could stand alone, it was good to know the family history. Lifting the hefty book out of the package and checking how many pages there were was a bit intimidating, but it's a pretty quick read with lots of interesting information about England and New Zealand, the lengthy travel experiences, settling in new territories, unease between natives and settlers, how importing animals changes the environment, etc. Very descriptive - at times I could almost visualize the people and landscape. A bit on the romance side and there is violence towards women, but overall a good vacation read. Recommend having a pencil handy to make note all of the characters!
Rated of 5
Rosemary K. (Saginaw, MI)
what a song!
Sarah Lark's Song of the Spirits is a sumptuous epic. I was completely enthralled throughout its nearly 700 pages. A continuation of Lark's earlier work, In the Land of the Long White Cloud, the plot concerns key families who settled in New Zealand in the late 1800s.
This book has everything: characters who represent various levels of society, background material on the developing country, and plot lines that keep one reading. Following the trials of Elaine, who marries the wrong man, and her cousin, half-Maori Kura, an aspiring opera singer, makes for some fascinating reading.
I most highly recommend this saga. I took my time reading it, since I was enjoying the author's way of presenting her story so much. I am grateful that there is a prequel; I will most certainly read that as well.
Song of the Spirits would make a perfect gift for a reader who loves historical fiction, tales of adventure, and down-to-earth love stories.
Rated of 5
Barbara H. (Richmond, IN)
The Saga of Kura and Elaine
The size of the book was daunting at first until I began to read. Even if I had wanted to stop reading I could not. These two young women managed to live absolutely exciting lives and bring the reader along with them into two very different situations. The book, which takes place in New Zealand, introduced me to different times, peoples, and life styles. One of the most interesting parts concerns the place of coal mining in New Zealand and the unwillingness of some mine owners to improve working conditions. New Zealand in the back country where these two young women both seek to hide is very much like the Old West mining towns. Both coal minors and gold minors are found there. It would be a very long selection for a book club, but a most worthwhile selection for the individual reader.
Rated of 5
Linda W. (Summit, NJ)
A Tale of Two Cultures
The location of New Zealand for "Song of the Spirits" is precipitous. This is a country with a glorious landscape that evokes a primal spirituality is most people who visit there. I was disappointed at the author's decision to not describe the scenery of New Zealand and its Maori culture more fully in an attempt to evoke the spirits.
Instead she concentrated on their human story and their relationships to animals as the doorway into their spirit. The twists and turns in the plot as it follows the two young women and their quest for independence and adulthood is fascinating. There is no condemnation at the recklessness of young love or the abandonment of a child because there is an extended family that wraps itself around these women and 'cleans up their mess'.
It was the story line that kept me engaged through 600 some pages. I think the translation is a bit clumsy in some places and I longed for a mental transportation to New Zealand, a gorgeous country that I have been fortunate to have visited.
Rated of 5
Karen L. (Wilton, IA)
Couldn't put it down
I thought it would take me a long time to read such a long book but it only took 3 days! I couldn't put it down, I wanted to know what would happen next. I worried about some characters, was angry at some characters, rooted for some of them etc. I liked Elaine while also feeling sorry for her and rooting for her. I disliked Kura for her spoiled self centered entitlement. I recommend this book to just about anyone. Its a family saga, a romance, and historical fiction. I am not sure whether book clubs would like it because it is so long. Its also part of a series but even though I never read book one it was fine to start with book 2. There are hints about what probably happened in book one. This book made me want to read the rest of the series.
Rated of 5
Hilary H. (Tucson, AZ)
Song of the Spirits
Song of the Spirits is a large (600 pages) novel about 1890s New Zealand. This was more of a romance novel than historical fiction that I was hoping for but an enjoyable read nonetheless. I am going to New Zealand in December so have been eagerly reading books that take place there. I happened to read the first of Sarah Lark's books on NZ just before receiving this book. Reading that one first provided a better back story of the characters, their intertwined relationships and why things are the way they are. Sarah Lark's books are often "landscape novels" according to the brief bio in the book and this does give one a fair sense of the overall landscape of 1890's New Zealand. As the title suggests, there are both positive influences as well as tensions with the Maori. The "song of the spirits" fascinate some and drive others mad.
Sarah Lark's series of "landscape novels" have made her a bestseller in Germany, her native country, as well as Spain and the United States. She was born in Germany's Ruhr region, where she discovered a love of animals - especially horses - early in life. She has worked as an elementary school teacher, travel guide, and commercial writer. She has also written numerous award-winning books about horses for adults and children, one of which was nominated for the Deutsche Jugendbuchpreis, Germany's distinguished prize for best children's book. Sarah currently lives with four dogs and a cat on her farm in Almería, Spain, where she cares for retired horses, plays guitar, and sings in her spare time.
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