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Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2997

Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 2:04 am    Post subject: Memoirs  Reply with quote

I was looking for a category for the book I have not long finished and it's a memoir really - In Search of Elisa Marchetti.  But there's no section for memoirs so I have put this under Biography.  

It was the search for a famous NZ children's author, Tessa Duder, for her ancestors in Livorno, Tuscany after realising she couldn't find her great great parents (the wife of which couple was the Elisa of the title) in the shipping lists of the country here.  Shipping lists might not mean much to you, though maybe Joe will know more of them, but they are the list of passengers on emigrant ships.  Hard to search because although the ships are easy to find with their individual list of passengers, it's not easy to look up a person to find what ship they came out on.  

Anyway Tessa couldn't find Elisa and her huband Natale, but she could find his brother and his wife.  She eventually concluded that her ggparents must have come under their names.  She goes to Italy to try and find out more, but her search is basically fruitless, though she receives plenty of help from archival people and the press, who run full-page articles about her search. And the book is full of Livorno, which she in no way romanticises.  (She is very disenchanted by Thomas Hardy on the way for his disparagement of the city, though.)

It was quite a fascinating account - I am very fond of family history and did this work for our historical society and could get quite caught up in the genealogy of people I didn't know and had never met.  But Tessa Duder offended me in the first few pages with the following:  My generation, especially the self-absorbed baby boomers five years or more younger than me, who by and large believe that they can learn nothing from history, needs to respect that [younger people’s desire to understand their Pakeha (non-Maori] past and what it means to be a NZer.” Ha! Our historical society is made up of baby boomers and struggles to attract younger people.

And for an author she has some odd uses of punctuation, especially commas, which jarred with me.  And she freely admits she could have used her local libraries and archives more before setting off to Italy and that might have saved her hours of trouble when she got there.

However these are quibbles and the whole story is quite engaging, though, without much resolution, it feels a bit unfinished.  It was written in 2002 and I checked on the internet, thinking there might be more there, but there didn’t seem to be.

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