The first piece of writing is an oddment. A verse. A moment in time as an old woman digs up a box of her mementoes and reminisces.
Then Hester Pearson’s story begins. Along with her family she has immigrated to New Zealand. It is late in the 19th century. Hester’s father has borrowed some money to improve his family’s fortunes. They will settle on some land out on Banks Peninsula and grow grass seed.
You will love the imagery that Moir has evoked. You can feel every step the family takes as they trek from where the boat that met them at Lyttleton has dropped them to their land and cottage along the ridge and overlooking the vast sea. It turns out that their land’s felling rights were sold by the previous owner. They are faced with the daunting prospect of clearing scrub and stumps before they can start their venture towards prosperity.
The story is enhanced by Hester’s discovery of a diary of Mr La Rochelle, the land’s previous owner. In it he describes a journey he undertook with a party of Maori before his return to Britain. He also describes a relationship with a Maori woman who journeyed with him.
The strands of history, family trials and a young girl becoming a woman combine to make this a beautiful read. The details of life in colonial times ring true. Hester’s relationship with her father, mother and brother grow and develop as both she and the story mature. I think Tanya Moir has excelled here and the story lingers with me still.
La Rochelle’s Road
by Tanya Moir $39.99
Published by Black Swan
Reviewed by Andrew Rumbles, Dymocks Ponsonby