The Fish by Lloyd Jones
Wow – I think I read this in a day. I sat on the window seat and just got hooked into the clever and fantastical story that is The Fish. The story starts sometime in the 1950s and our narrator is a young boy with two older sisters. The eldest, Carla, has left abruptly and writes to her younger brother from Sydney, wanting to know all the ins and outs of family life. The other sister is banished to live in a caravan in the local campground after she gets pregnant. As the youngest, and a boy, he is forever struggling to keep up with the others and much seems hidden or kept from him. When the baby is born, the family are shocked by how ‘other’ he is. They refer to him as The Fish and as the reader, I was never sure how literal the descriptions of The Fish were or was he normal but just seemed different to the family. Our narrator has writing aspirations but after The Fish is born and the family deals with addiction and loss, he struggles to keep up with his letters to Carla and so he drifts into the family scrap metal business. The Fish also starts working part-time in the family business during school holidays and becomes popular with the customers, which creates the sense that he could actually be more acceptable/normal than we have been led to believe. There is much in this novel that feels familiar, like the Wahine disaster, school in the sixties and wayward siblings. But then there are undercurrents of the strange and unknowable … The Fish. Lloyd Jones has once again created a very clever novel that is so very easy to read.
Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick
This is a fabulous book set in the 1830s. it is the story of the settling of Wellington by immigrants and the story is told from three perspectives. First is Huw Pengellin, who has come to New Zealand from Wales. Huw works for Colonel Wakefield as his procurer and buys and looks after all the items Wakefield plans to use to buy/steal land from “the natives”. Secondly, we hear from Hineroa, who has lost her family and tribe in battle and has been taken as a slave by Te Rauparaha. The third narrator is Huw’s Welsh wife Martha who tells her story as she journeys with her young son to meet up with Huw on the other side of the world. Jenny Pattrick is deft at creating warm and likeable characters and this, along with the interesting historical narrative, means this novel is a joy to read. Pattrick has woven her fictional characters through with historically factual people and events. Wellington, Kapiti Coast and Nelson are all rich with Maori history and it was fascinating to read about how these areas were colonised by Wakefield’s New Zealand Company. Loved it.