Shaken Not Stirred

Shaken not StirredShaken, Not Stirred: Family survival in a quake zone

The 6.3 magnitude quake that hit the city of Christchurch on February 22, 2011 unleashed the power of a nuclear bomb and the impact it had was devastating: 185 people died and 100,000 homes were damaged.
Shaken, Not Stirred: Family survival in a quake zone is Amanda’s personal account of daily life in Christchurch following the February earthquake and more than 10,000 aftershocks that followed.
Imagine sharing a portable toilet with your neighbours for months on end, showering in a shipping container in the fire station car park, or travelling for three hours a day on six different buses to get to and from school. Amanda describes what family life was really like in the quake zone as she struggled to come to grips with the “new normal” where a sense of humour was indispensable.
“It’s hard to comprehend how those few seconds of shaking changed our lives. You had to see the funny side of buying seat belts for the TV sets so they didn’t topple over in big aftershocks. I didn’t ever imagine I’d resort to digging a latrine in the back garden between the olive trees but we found ourselves in a twenty-first-century city that was suddenly without power, water or flushing toilets. I met a woman in the street who said, ‘Thank goodness I’ve been doing yoga so I can squat.’”

This book will make you laugh and cry. It shows that living in a disaster zone is not all bad and that when the chips are down, small communities step up to look after their own. Twenty-four colour photographs document the destruction in Sumner village and the city’s central business district and images of post-quake community events illustrate the incredible spirit that helped residents get through a very difficult time.
Shaken Not Stirred is available from New Zealand bookstores or online from Wily Publications (

Author Profile: The Australian Women’s Weekly February 2012
Diary: The Australian Women’s Weekly
Book extract: the Australian Women’s Weekly February 2012
Humour tinges very sad story” Southland Times Review
Shaken Not Stirred Facebook page

Comments from readers

“I have just finished reading your book  Shaken Not Stirred . . . amazing. Thank you. It made me laugh and cry but above all made me realise I am normal; well, post quakes normal. Great read, will send a copy to my sis in the USA and family in Auckland for them to understand how great it still is to live in Sumner, despite all the challenges we still face. Well done Amanda.”

“What a delightful book, I really enjoyed it. I just came back from Aussie visiting family and your book created a lot of interest. I gave my copy to my step-sister and will buy another copy for my sister-in-law, and another for myself to keep.”

The story of the book

The title Shaken, Not Stirred is based on the headline of a column I wrote for The Sunday Star Times a  few weeks after the 7.1 quake on September 4, 2010. Following the February 2011 quake I wrote a 3000 word diary about family life for The Australian Women’s Weekly, and when it was published reader response was so positive I decided to turn it into a book.

Many of the other quake books focus on broken buildings whereas Shaken Not Stirred looks at the realities – good and bad – of living in a quake zone.

As a contributor to the online business pages of the New Zealand Herald I was able to go on media tours inside the CBD red zone and I’d emerge from those trips feeling numb and wondering how on earth our city would ever recover.

Documenting the demise of community landmarks such as Shag Rock and the former Sumner Borough Council chambers was pretty depressing, but I felt it was important to record those images. Readers tell me they love the photos, many of them contributed by Sumner residents.

There’s a lot of humour in the book too and one of my favourite photos is of the Nayland Street portaloos decorated with gnomes, a painting, and a toilet bowl “vase” filled with flowers.

Although I think Christchurch readers will enjoy the book, I hope it is widely read in other parts other country and overseas too.  People need to understand what we have been through and continue to live with: the frustrating battles with the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and insurance companies, the terrible roads, and the sneaky fear that there will be yet another big quake.

As a result of an opinion piece Banging heads against EQC wall written for The Press newspaper for the first anniversary of the February 2011 quake, I ended up debating the poor performance of EQC on TV3’s Campbell Live show with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee Quake conversations at Schwass in a Box 3News NZ and presented him with a copy of the book. I sincerely hope he read it.