Book Review: New Moons For Sam, Becoming Kiwi – Life of a New Zealand Diplomat by Peter Hamilton

Book cover showing a moon rising over the sea.

In 1961, a boy from Somerset embarked with his family on a six-week voyage to New Zealand. He left behind an English village where generations of his family had lived, to make a new home in a remote country that was still closely tied to the one he'd left.

Despite challenges adapting as new immigrants, these were good times to be growing up in rural New Zealand. But the country was about to embark on its own change as ties with Britain were loosening and a more outward-looking, confident and diverse nation was emerging. Peter Hamilton joined the diplomatic service as this change was getting underway and his four-decade career saw him leading diplomatic and free trade efforts with traditional and new partners at a time of unprecedented international change for his adopted country.

This is a charming and unhurried autobiography. In truth, it seems written mostly for the author's family - with a long genealogy and plentiful tales of family folklore. There are no great revelations, no blockbusting exposés of state secrets, and only the briefest of glimpses behind the curtain of diplomacy.

It would have been lovely to have read just a bit more detail about the people the author encountered. At times, it feels a bit like the Fast Show character "...which was nice" come to life.

As a civil servant, I'm always interested to see how other countries conduct themselves behind the scenes. It's good to know that some problems are universal!

It's a gentle meander through an interesting life - but it never really invites us into the author's world. There's very little sense of what he feels, or how he reacts to the world around him.

Which makes the end - an impassioned plea to remove the UK's Queen as Head of State - somewhat surprising. We finally get a sense of the person behind the job. Certainly of interest to Kiwis who want to understand modern history a little better, and to anyone interested in the realities of diplomacy.

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy. The book is available to pre-order now:

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