Sunday, March 27, 2011
La Rochelle's Road
Author: Tanya Moir
Release date: 1 April 2011
Imprint: Black Swan
Little did first-time novelist Tanya Moir know what savagery mother nature was about to unleash on her old home province of Canterbury as she was writing her book, which vividly captures Banks Peninsula’s pioneering life in the 1860s.
But, it’s the drama of their landscape and the stoicism of their forebears that makes the area so compelling for proud and loyal Cantabs, and it’s this pioneering spirit which is sure to help them through the difficult times ahead.
Banks Peninsula is no stranger to such savagery, and its destructive force plays a significant part in La Rochelle’s Road, in-store from 1 April.
Moir says her novel is a story about people finding ways to survive a situation they can't escape, about trying to cope when it seems as if everything's against you, including the land itself.
“I wrote it because I wanted to look at some of the ways in which our national character was shaped, but of course it's become horribly more current,” Moir explains.
“One of the things I always wanted to convey was that many early immigrants to Canterbury came from very comfortable backgrounds, and had no more experience of roughing it than New Zealanders today — less, in fact, since they'd almost certainly never have slept in a tent, or been without running water, they had no idea how to cook, and the wealthier women had probably never even made a cup of tea. I think that's a timely thing to remember.
“What we see now as immense courage and fortitude came down to necessity. They got up in the morning, put one foot in front of the other, and did what they could — because they had to. Maybe we can all take heart from the thought that in quite a short space of time, out of that simple human response to necessity, out of ordinary people just carrying on as best they could, came the city that we love."
Strongly realised, La Rochelle’s Road is a powerful story that really packs a punch especially with Christchurch now never far from our thoughts. It has early settlers, hardship, loss, love, resilience, plenty of historical details, a cracking pace and a wonderful mix of Maori, French, Irish and English characters all underpinned by a compelling plot.
The Petersen family arrives from London at their farmstead on Banks Peninsula in 1867, intending to farm cocksfoot seed. The land was bought sight-unseen; it turns out to be a remote, precipitous scrap of land covered in scrub and unsellable stumps.
While their parents founder in this inhospitable place, the two younger members of the family, Robbie and Hester, face their new life with resilience. To Robbie, the new land is a place of adventure, beauty and love. Meanwhile Hester finds solace in a journal written by the Frenchman who built their house, and through his story she finds a new way of looking at the strange and often dangerous landscape around her.
About the author: