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.
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.
Ann W. (New York, NY)
song of the spirits
Excellent and compelling read. It is a historic novel about New Zealand. Initially there is sheep-herding and the vast farms that were developed. Thought the experience of one of the major protagonists, the coal mines are introduced. The author used actual, historical experiences such as the Brunner mining disaster to lend details to the novel. The novel integrates the Maori culture and mythology as it interacted with the Western settlers and colonists. The Maori had much more openness to sexuality until it clashed with the more Victorian settlers. There is a strong Maori oral tradition in song, dance, poetry that is beautifully rendered in this novel.
Cynthia D. (Germantown, TN)
A Spell-Binding Saga of Colonial New Zealand
Vast, sprawling farms of wealthy sheep and cattle barons provide the background for this story of the people and conditions. We meet heirs (like Elaine) who love the land and animals, and others (like Kura) who want a musical career. The story spans treacherous roads, fires, coal mines, abusive husbands and delightful pub scenes and romances.
Do not be intimidated by its length! Somewhat reminiscent of "The Thorn Birds," this story captured my attention on the first page & I enjoyed every moment reading it.
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!
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.
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.