A Fabled Land: Mesopotamia Station

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Inspirational book about a famous New Zealand high-country sheep station

Subject: History
Book Setting: Canterbury
A Fabled Land: Mesopotamia Station, Bruce Ansley

The historic Mesopotamia Station is located in mid-Canterbury at the headwaters of the magnificent Rangitata gorge. ‘Mesopotamia', named by Samuel Butler in 1860, means ‘the land between two rivers': it lies between the Rangitata and Forest Creek rivers. Author Bruce Ansley has brilliantly captured the spirit of this great sheep station: from the early pioneers who first braved its harsh winters and searing summers to the ingenuity and drive of the present-day owners, the Prouting family. His description of the landscape is at once poetic and immediate and magnificent, taking the reader right to the heart of the high country.

The Mesopotamia story gives an astonishing overview of the history of the area, while the imposing power of the rivers, the hills, and the weather are ever present. In this country the mountains have as much personality and character as the members of the station's longtime owners, the Prouting family. The Rangitata River flows like a rogue throughout.

We ride the ‘curious tide of extremes' that farming embodies: the heartache, the exhilaration, the grandiose, the bombastic, the gracious, the laconic humour. This is a man's country, where the women who wish to stay have to hold their own; a country where the past is repeated and echoed in the present.

Peter Bush's photographs, taken over a 50-year period, grace Ansley's story, capturing the great musters of days gone by, the dignity of the shearing teams, the majestic country and the characters who people Mesopotamia's story.

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    $49.99 RRP
    ISBN: 9781877460630
    Published: 05/10/2012
    Imprint: Random House NZ
    Extent: 320 pages
    Stock Level: HIGH
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Bruce Ansley

Bruce Ansley

Bruce Ansley is one of New Zealand's most experienced and respected writers. He has worked in Great Britain and New Zealand, in radio, television and newspapers, and for two decades was a writer for The New Zealand Listener before becoming a full-time author.

He has written a number of bestselling books, including Stoned on Duty, the astonishing story of an undercover cop's work and his descent into addiction; A Long Slow Affair of the Heart, a lyrical account of a canal boat trip through France which develops into a journey within a journey, as the internal shifts within a marriage threaten to destroy it; Gods and Little Fishes, the acclaimed memoir of a childhood in New Brighton, and A Fabled Land, a fascinating account of life on the famous Mesopotamia high country station founded by the novelist Samuel Butler.

He has won fellowships to Oxford University and Cambridge University, and a number of journalism awards. His television credits include writing for A Week of It and McPhail and Gadsby. A keen sailor, he and his wife Sally have moved from their beloved Christchurch to Waiheke Island to be closer to family.

Reviewing A Long Slow Affair of the Heart, Graham Beattie wrote that this ‘excellent writer' had produced a ‘entertainingly written' book which is ‘more than just a superb travel story, though, it is a memoir, a memoir of a marriage and life together' which is ‘remarkably candid'.

Gods and Little Fishes was described in The New Zealand Listener as a ‘vivid evocation of a vanished world', and was selected by the Christchurch Press as one of the top ten non-fiction books of 2009.

The fate of heritage buildings in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes is chronicled in the elegiac Christchurch Heritage, which was describedby Graham Beattie as ‘the book which I believe stands out above the others', and which raised funds for heritage projects in the Christchurch recovery.New Zealand House and Garden described it as ‘evocative, descriptive and engaging', through which his love of the city and its buildings ‘shines through', a ‘treasured record' which ‘voice[s] for the people of Christchurch the sense of loss we feel for our treasured buildings and our continuing love for our still-beautiful city'. Greymouth Evening Star hailed it an ‘outstanding heritage publication'.

For Christchurch Heritage, Ansley partnered with The Press's photo librarian Jude Tewnion; a similar pairing was made with award-winning photographer Peter Bush on the bestselling A Fabled Land: The Story of Canterbury's Famous Mesopotamia Station, establishing Ansley's reputation as one of New Zealand's finest writers about ‘place'. The Otago Daily Times wrote: ‘Their work stitches the book together. Ansley conveys the flinty edge that generations of farmers and their families needed to make a go of it in harsh and unforgiving surroundings. Bush's images reflect the seasons which rule the farm calendar . . .'