Storylines list of notable books for 2015
The Auckland Harbour Bridge is under construction. Simon likes watching the bridge being built, and talking to his uncle and his mates about what’s happening on site. Meanwhile, Simon’s best friend Marty is obsessed with the Space Race and his younger sister Jo can’t stop worrying about the fate of the dogs and monkeys that are the world’s first space travellers. Everyone says that life on the North Shore will change once the bridge is finished … but what does that mean for Simon and his family?
The story behind the book
There were two big challenges in writing this book. The first one was being able to understand how the bridge was built. The second one was being able to explain it in a way that made sense to other people!
Luckily I found lots of things to help me. I started with books (of course). I read books written soon after the bridge was finished that included diagrams and photos of bridge construction. I listened to recordings that had been made of men who had worked on the bridge in all sorts of different roles. I even managed to talk to one of the bridge workers, a man called Alec Grundy who had been a carpenter, aged 88 and living on the North Shore.
I found lots of helpful sites on the Internet, not just about the bridge but about what was going on in the 1950s. I read old newspapers that showed what was going on in Auckland at that time, and used some of those details. Many of the events that happen in the book (like the chimpanzees’ tea party, the Easter show, the Farmers Christmas parade and the opening of the first supermarket) are based on facts and newspaper reports.
It wasn’t all reading. I took the Ports of Auckland free harbour tour, which goes all round the wharves and then under the bridge. I went on the A J Hackett bridge walk, and halfway along we stopped to watch someone do a bungy jump – but that was a bit of research I didn’t want to investigate for myself! I went on a walking tour of Northcote and discovered the fascinating area right underneath the bridge, which I’d never explored before.
When the book was published, I found that lots of Aucklanders have their own memories of the bridge. Even if people don’t remember the actual bridge construction, they might recall the side lanes being added in the 1960s, or the experience of handing money over to the toll both operators. Someone told me she knew of people getting married in the toll booths!
The Harbour Bridge is such a central part of Auckland’s geography and history, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to find out more about it.
“1958/ 59 was a time of enormous change in New Zealand for everyone and with real skill Philippa Werry has managed to integrate the changes, attitudes and views of the time into a story that will be enjoyed for its own sake…As an adult I was fascinated by the story for all the memories it brought back – the chimpanzees’ tea parties/ the movie Jailhouse Rock and the worries it brought to mothers of teenage girls/ watching for the 2 tonne satellite as it whirled overhead…”
Thanks to the late and deeply missed Barbara Murison for this review….read more
Around the Bookshops
This book is a fascinating read and very well written…read more
“It’s our history, it’s fascinating“. We’re a young country but we have a valid history and these sort of books tell it; I love that they exist….hear more
John McIntyre on Radio NZ