■ REVIEW: The Bookmen’s Dominion
Interesting look at not-so-well-known NZ history

Taking a look at an almost forgotten chapter in New Zealand’s history, The Bookmen’s Dominion focuses on the activities and networks of historians and literary critics during the 1920s and 1930s.

Author Chris Hilliard — who studied New Zealand history at the University of Auckland — was the recipient of one of Harvard’s most prestigious writing awards, the Bowdoin Prize, joining the ranks of high calibre writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson.

From the 1920s, scholars, critics, librarians, historians and literary lawyers were the gatekeepers of poetic taste and historical awareness.

They acted as go-betweens for authors and publishers, championed women’s rights and 11 of them got together to write a murder mystery.

Gentlemanly yet blokey, these “bookmen” were truly fascinating.

This story of how they came about and what they did really is interesting reading and offers a look at a part of New Zealand’s history that many of us know little about — if we even knew they existed at all.

Well worth a look for curiosity value alone.

The Bookmen’s Dominion, by Chris Hilliard (Auckland University Press, $34.99)

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