Chosen by Rachel
Alice Roland and her children join her colonial husband to live in isolation in Pukekaroro, a settlement on a NZ river abutting a native kauri forest.
➤ “In creating The Story Of A NZ River, Jane Mander has plucked a well to-do British family out of old-England and deposited them into the middle of a dense New Zealand karui forest! The cast of characters in this micro community cover the gambit of personalties and societal class and manage to address many political, moral and social issues of the time. I say address but I mean break the rules of! Mander’s characters have a freedom that the 1920s did not afford society, especially women. Yet, amongst the long hard days of saw milling, Mander demonstrates that passion, forbidden love and loyalties have no geographical boundaries, and she creates a nice juxtaposition of the pious English romance against the trials of a colonial settlement, reminding us that opposites attract. It was disappointing no Maori faces graced the pages of this New Zealand book, but this was probably a fact true to point in the lives of many settlers. The author’s own experiences have helped provide an education on colonial life, and the characters are captivating, especially the daughter Asia – once I turned that last page, I found myself longing for a sequel!” – Rachel
➤ “A very well written, literary Mills & Boon is how I would describe The Story of a New Zealand River. Needless to say I was hooked within a few pages! I loved the way author Jane Mander described the tensions and passions between characters, as well as the romance of the rugged yet beautiful New Zealand landscape and the early settlers as they fought to make a living. There were a few notable exceptions from the script of a classic romance: Asia, the daughter of the female lead Alice, was the true heroine. And an undercurrent of feminist, social and political commentary kept it from being a lightweight read. It was easy to see how the book became controversial within New Zealand, at the time it was written. And I loved every minute of it.” – Sonya
➤ “Jane Mander is an absolute master in describing social interactions and the setting in an incredibly precise way. I felt as if I was there – I could picture the bush, the house, the river and I felt the awkward tension between many of the characters (who were all so well developed). It was slightly irritating how perfect and a bit condescending David Bruce was towards Alice but perhaps accurate for the time with regards to male female relationships. I really enjoyed this book – a beautifully written story.” – Jo
John Lane (New York)