All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Denniston Rose – Jenny Pattrick

on October 26, 2010

This was quite a random find in the paperback stacks of my library. The cover caught my eye so I pulled it out and decided to keep it when I discovered that it was set in New Zealand as I’d been looking for a novel set there for the 2nd leg of the Australasia continent for my Global Challenge.

The novel is set in the town of Denniston in the 1880’s, a mining community on the western coast of the South Island. The town itself was based around the coalmine there, accessible only up an almost vertical incline – the Denniston Incline. This made life for those that worked the mine, and for their families, incredibly isolated as not only could the journey down to the town of Westport not be made on a whim, it was also incredibly difficult for ladies to make. The method of transportation up to the mine/town was empty wagons returning up to the mine for more coal. There were no seats, and the going was rough. Mostly, when people arrived in Denniston, they stayed in Denniston until death. And then, because the ground was mostly solid rock, the people were unable to dig graves. The deceased had to be sent back down the Incline to be buried at a nearby cemetary.

On a storming night in 1882, Con the Brake is working manning the controls that pull the wagon up and down the incline. When one set reaches the top, he notices that a woman and child are on board. He starts, because the woman is familiar to him, but he prays that it cannot be. The woman, who has gone by many names, calls herself Eva Storm and asks after Jimmy Cork. She is directed to Jimmy’s tent where she finds him much changed from the man she knew some 5 years ago. Claiming he is the father of her small daughter Rose, Eva moves herself and Rose into the tent with Jimmy and begins life in Denniston.

It’s a hard life on Denniston for many, with the miner’s underpaid and often overworked. You get to know a handful of the characters as Rose comes into the contact with them and her life intertwines with those of the locals. The narrative jumps between third person generally, with the odd chapter thrown in containing Eva’s first person point of view which was a bit jarring but not entirely offputting. There is much made of the geography of the area, you get a real sense for the isolation, the misery of the weather, the storms and driving rain. There’s also detailed description on the mining of the coal and the system used to move it (and people) down the Incline. To be honest, that mostly went over my head but I’m sure anyone with a touch of engineering knowledge or understanding would appreciate it.

The characters are varied, and there were some truly likable ones. It’s hard not to feel for the poor little Rose and the terrible life she must endure due to the bad choices and the lack of care taken by her mother. Eva herself is one of the least redeeming characters I’ve come across in a novel in recent times. Her selfishness in putting what she wants ahead of all else, including what is best for her daughter, manifests in some truly terrible things happening to Rose which are unforgivable. She knows that Rose is in danger and she does very little, if not nothing to stop it. She has no respect for the marriages of others and sets out to destroy one from the time she arrives in Denniston.

Unfortunately, the biggest negative of this novel is the pace. It is -excruciatingly- slow. The first 100 pages drags by so slowly with hardly anything happening except a lot of description that I almost gave up on it more than once. It does pick up after that but it still crawls too slowly for my personal taste! While I enjoy an author that has good knowledge of their subject and likes to share that, there definitely is such thing as too much information and sometimes it was just warning: Mining/Engineering Infodump Ahead. For a long time I actually wondered what the story actually was because I couldn’t see one. While I eventually did come to quite like the storyline, and the portrayal of that mining community, I was still a bit…detached. I didn’t care for the characters as much as I think I was supposed to. When horrible things happened I kind of went ‘oh well, that’s sad’ and turned the page and didn’t think twice about it. I think if more time was spent on making me care for the characters, and less on what it’s like to have a system that pulls a wagon up an almost vertical incline, I would’ve enjoyed this book a lot more.


Book #84 of my 100 Book Challenge

This book counts towards my 2010 Global Challenge

he Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
Africa: #1: A Change In Altitude, by Anita Shreve. Set in Kenya
Asia: #1: The Blood of Flowers, by Anita Amirrezvani. Set in Persia/Iran. #2 February Flowers, by Fan Wu. Set in China.
Australasia: #1: Vodka Doesn’t Freeze, by Leah Giarratano. Set in Sydney, Australia. #2 The Denniston Rose, by Jenny Pattrick. Set in Denniston, New Zealand.
Europe: #1: Cold Granite, by Stuart MacBride. Set in Aberdeen, Scotland.
North America (incl Central America): #1 Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood. Set in Toronto, Canada.
South America
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.

This completes the Australasian leg of my challenge.

7/12 novels completed. Just over halfway done! Better pick my socks up a bit though if I want to finish up by the end of the year.

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