SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES, EXPATS HAVE THEIR SAY by Jan Morgan

(Cape Catley,

pb $24.95)

  Back to Speaking for Themselves
REVIEWED BY:GRAEME BARROW, 07/03/2008

People from many countries are peripatetic these days. Mobility is not a problem, especially if one has skills which are in demand. And those skills the 23 well-known New Zealand expatriates who live and work abroad, but who return intermittently and who Morgan interviews, certainly have.

Most of them are household names, here at least - Sam Neill, Peter Gordon, Michael Campbell, Michael Seresin, Dave Dobbyn, Roger Donaldson, Temuera Morrison, et al. Morgan literally lets her subjects speak (for themselves) and the result is some interesting reading. The book certainly caters for oneof the nationa's obsessions - who are we, what is our identity, and what do others think of us?

Inevitably, there is a degree of predictability and repetition. Comments about the influence New Zealand had on their upbringing and character, why they can't work here, or why they would like to come back, are hardly revelationary, and would be shared by expats from many countries around the world.

I found the interviews with John Clarke (aka Fred Dagg), Rena Owen, Sam Neill and Michael Seresin the most interesting - Clarke because of his humour and intelect, Owen because of her Bay of Islands upbringing, mixed race parentage, and implacable determination to suceed, and Neill and Seresin because they have lived/worked in many countries, and have perceptive things to say about their lives and their country/countries.

In all the interviews there is pride and patriotism. But there is some criticism too - of the negativity in New Zealand, the lack of interest in anything outside their own patch, and the silly - but rather widespread - conviction that this is the only country in the world that has lovely scenery, no class system, and a can-do attitude.