Home > Senior Fiction, Young Adult > Displaced by Cristina Sanders. Pub. Walker Books, 2021

Displaced by Cristina Sanders. Pub. Walker Books, 2021

May 14, 2021

I really enjoyed this historical novel of New Zealand in the 1870’s when settlers were being encouraged to come to New Zealand and establish farms. The Land Wars with the Maori were essentially over in terms of an armed struggle and new Zealand was open to settlers from all over the World.

This novel concentrates on an English gentry family named Sansonnet headed by Robert and his family whose farm in England is sold from underneath them by Robert’s brother who encourages them to join him on a farm in New Zealand. Well all is not as it seems.

Robert and Penelope and their three sons and two daughters book passage to Napier in New Zealand and set sail but all does not go well. Robert is a bully of a father and it is way or the highway for his family. This cause some conflict. On the journey all three sons come to grief in different ways and only one makes to Napier.

On arrival there is no brother waiting, no farm and a very rough and ready colonial settlement. Robert takes off to Thames to meet his brother and the family are left to make it on their own headed by 18 year old Eloise who is a superb character, her 16 year old sister Martha and mother Penelope who has lost it after the fate that befell her sons.

With the help of a preachers daughter the family settle in, but Eloise has fallen for a Norwegian woodcutter named Lars and Martha has taken with Hemi, a half cast Maori boy. To find out any more you are going to have to read it yourself and believe me it is worth it.

The clash of values of Victorian manners of the Sansonnets and those of the settler communities is stunning. The women cope very well but the men are left flabbergasted and found to be hypocritical.

Well written, the descriptions of early New Zealand are superb and there is a nice bit of scandal at the end. One of the best novels about early New Zealand that I have read. Could be read by Intermediate school readers and above but aimed at senior audiences.

Winner of The Storylines Tessa Duder Award for 2021.

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