Friday, April 7, 2017

The Villa at the Edge of the Empire | Fiona Farrell

Although we lived through the 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes, I've been reluctant to read anything written about them. may it's because we lived through them and feel no need to relive them in literature.
However...I have enjoyed Fiona Farrell's work before, so I picked up this book and set aside my trepidation. I'm glad I did.
Farrell loves the city of Christchurch, whcih was devastated by the earthquake of February 2011. As she knew the city beforehand she has been able to reconstruct the character and heart of the city by using the idea of maps.
She tells the story of the earliest maps made of Christchurch, of a future city to be established on the Canterbury Plains. She then chooses parts of the city and it's geography and maps to take us through the issues of what was there and familiar, what was destroyed and the plans and blueprints being drawn up to make the city anew.
She describes the tensions between wanting a city of the future, without disregarding the heritage and history whcih shaped Christchurch from the start.
Farrell also draws a similar portrait of another town she is familiar with, L'Aquila, which has suffered through many earthquakes. It's not so much as a comparison to Christchurch, but as another example of a community looking to regenerate the place they live in.

This book is brilliant, because it covers a wide range or issues facing cities world-wide, and yet, with feeling and sensitivity explores the real meaning of community, belonging and the love of place.

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