Book Review: The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns

The Settling Earth

The Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns
Release Date: 16th December 2014
Publisher: Odyssey Books
Buy: PaperbackKindle

arriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant — The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.

Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities — these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.


The Settling Earth is a beautiful collection of ten short stories set in colonial New Zealand. Telling the stories of British women as they arrive in Auckland as settlers, each trying to carve out a new life for themselves and sometimes their families too, in this unfamiliar land.
The women we meet in the stories range from mothers to baby farmers, to prostitutes to farmers wives. Each has their own story to tell and – the thing which I liked most about this book – each story is interlinked.
We start off by being introduced to a young immigrant girl who has married a much older man. She is longing for home and struggling to settle in to her new life. In the second story we meet her husband – and then as the stories progress you become immediately aware of the thread which is running through them all as we hear of inter-linked characters and the way in which the stories are all connected is done brilliantly. They are subtly linked and this makes the whole collection of stories flow together extremely well.

I was absolutely enthralled by The Settling Earth. It truly is a fascinating collection of historical stories and I must admit that I struggled not to read the whole book in one sitting. I just got so into the story and couldn’t wait to see which of the settlers we would be meeting next, and how they would be connected to the story that came before theirs.
If you have more self control than me then I’d recommend taking your time over The Settling Earth. Take the time to appreciate each story as its own and I think you’ll get even more enjoyment out of this book. I know I will certainly be re-visiting The Settling Earth and I intend to linger a little more over each story.

There are so many themes running throughout this book, whether it be motherhood, conflict, love, hope – there’s so much hidden just underneath the surface. Much more in fact, than I would have ever imagined possible with short stories.

The final story of the ten is written by Shelley Davies who is a Maori author – and it gives us an entirely different perspective than to the one we have experienced in the previous nine stories as we get to hear a Maori’s take on British colonialism in New Zealand. I felt that this really brought the stories together and made for the perfect ending.

Rebecca Burns has such a vivid style of writing. She will fully engage you with every story and the way that she has blended fact and fiction together is done brilliantly. If you are a fan of historical fiction or are on the lookout for something just that little bit different then I highly recommend this compelling and beautifully written collection.


A huge thank you to Rebecca Burns for providing me with a copy of The Settling Earth to read and review. ♥



Rebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories, over thirty of which have been published online or in print. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011, winner of the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition in 2013 (and runner-up in 2014), and has been profiled as part of the University of Leicester’s “Grassroutes Project”—a project that showcases the 50 best transcultural writers in the county. In November 2014 she won the Black Pear Press short story competition with her story, “Seaglass”. Her piece is the title story in the Black Pear Press anthology, “Seaglass and Other Stories” – available from December 2014 at…

Rebecca Burns  | WebsiteTwitter |  Goodreads |





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