Publication:

Napier Courier - 2021-05-05

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NZ historical novel rich in detail and atmosphere

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Displaced by Cristina Sanders (Walker Books, $21.99) Reviewed by Adele Broadbent, Wardini Books .. .. .. .. .. .. Eloise loves her life on their farm in Cornwall England, surrounded by her three brothers, younger sister and their parents. When they are all summoned together by their father, they wonder what the reason. Their father, stern and solemn, announces that they are to leave Cornwall. The owner of the farm (their uncle) has sold it to start afresh in New Zealand. They are to join him. In shock they pack their lives into boxes and in September 1871, sail away from England on a ship called the Balmoral, to the bottom of the world. Their family is splintered and broken when they finally arrive in Napier, New Zealand, months later in August 1872. Sickness was rife on board the Balmoral and they were not spared. Their father’s dreams for a new life for them all are now impossible and again they are left wondering about their possible future. With no sign of their uncle, Father sets off to find him, leaving Eloise in charge of their shattered family. Used to a comfortable life, they are soon on a meagre budget, the only light in their lives, new friendships made. When news of a lost family member reaches them, Eloise goes against convention and follows the trail to find him. This journey finds families she recognises from the sea journey — Scandinavian immigrants promised farmland by the NZ Government. What they’ve found however is land thick with towering trees several men wide, no shelter and continuing poverty. Relieved to return home to her meagre troubled existence in Napier, there is no sign of her father and even worse news to come. Winner of the 2020 Storylines Tessa Duder Award, Displaced isa historical young adult novel rich in detail, atmosphere and life of a family in the early 1870s. The main character Eloise is courageous in the way she copes with her life being torn apart by the men she trusted and believed in. Her uncle sells her home out from under them, her father abandons them for months with no word, and another abuses a trust given to him. The fate of women in this time in history is completely held by the men of the family. Eloise or her mother cannot work, control finances or make decisions, at least until they are forced to, challenging all propriety, customs and society. The shift from a treasured life in Cornwall, to ship life, then a foreign land (NZ) was not only beautifully written but obviously thoroughly researched for every wave and step of Eloise’s journey. Perfect for NZ historical novel studies, Displaced is also a novel that grips you tighter the further you venture in. Loved it!

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