Available in bookshops nationwide.
There are three central characters in The Gentleman’s Club, the debut novel by Jen Shieff: Hairdresser and brothel owner Rita, Hungarian immigrant engineer Istvan – who is on assisted passage, and mixed up sixteen-year-old Judith. These three characters create their own stories, but are all involved in the resolution of a child slavery crime.
The plot is a mix of romance, intrigue and determination. We follow Rita as she hopes for success of the opening of her girls’ boarding house; Judith as she is determined to do ‘right’ by the three orphan girls she has been paid to escort from England to a new life with adoptive families in New Zealand; and Istvan as he pursues his simple goal of finding work, a new life, and as he assists Judith.
The main settings are Rita’s establishment and the Brodie Home for orphaned children, run by Mr Lindsay Pitcaithly. Other characters create a mesh of personalities and problems, all of which are resolved neatly in the end. But it’s the “how” they are resolved which makes this a fascinating picture of 1950’s New Zealand life – when the NZ culture was still formative and followed much of Mother England’s, except for the kiwi “can do” attitude to any problem that arises.
Shieff has researched the times and culture of the age thoroughly, and has enabled the setting to come to life with references to familiar places, people and customs.
Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street
The Gentleman’s Club
by Jen Shieff
Published by Mary Egan Publishing