Dear Oliver

Uncovering a Pākehā history

Peter Wells

A fresh way to look at New Zealand’s history

When writer and historian Peter Wells found a cache of family letters amongst his elderly mother’s effects, he realised that he had the means of retracing the history of a not-untypical family swept out to New Zealand during the great nineteenth-century human diaspora from Britain. His family experienced the war against Te Kooti, the Boer War, the Napier earthquake of 1931 and the Depression. They rose from servant status to the comforts of the middle class. There was army desertion, suicide, adultery, AIDS, secrets and lies. There was also success, prosperity and social status.

In digging deep into their stories, examining letters from the past and writing a letter to the future, Peter Wells constructs a novel and striking way to view the history of Pākehā New Zealanders.

To look inside, click here.


‘A wonderful feat of dexterity ... beautiful writing ... riveting and exciting’ — Tilly Lloyd, Unity Books

Dear Oliver is an important, meticulously researched book that will resonate with readers on many levels. It certainly brought a few tears of recognition to my eyes.’ — Linda Herrick, NZ Listener

‘You don’t just read this memoir; you feel it. ... It’s a meticulously written story, pitch-perfect and pace-perfect most of the time ... generous, forgiving, yet forensically unflinching when necessary.’ — David Hill, Weekend Herald

‘There is extensive research and content in this work, in what is a poignant and deeply sensitive portrayal of his ageing mother and confronting mortality.’ — Jessie Neilson, Otago Daily Times

  • CATEGORY: Biography and memoir, Ebooks, History
  • ISBN: 9780994147363
  • ESBN: 9780994147370
  • PUBLISHER: Massey University Press
  • IMPRINT: Massey University Press
  • PUBLISHED: 12/03/2018
  • PAGE EXTENT: 336
  • FORMAT: Soft cover
Profile image for Peter Wells

Peter Wells is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, and a writer/ director in film.