‘Dougie’s story and mine is not told in the history of William Larnach. It is our private journey, and only we understand how it came about; only we know the fitness and the wonder of it.’ William James Mudie Larnach’s name resonates in New Zealand history – the politician and self-made man who built the famous ‘castle’ on Otago Peninsula. In 1891, after the death of his first two wives, he married the much younger Constance de Bathe Brandon. But the marriage that began with such happiness was to end in tragedy. The story of the growing relationship between Conny and William’s younger son, Dougie, lies at the heart of Owen Marshall’s subtle and compelling new novel. The socially restrictive world of late nineteenth-century Dunedin and Wellington springs vividly to life as Marshall traces the deepening love between stepmother and stepson, and the slow disintegration of the domineering yet vulnerable figure of Larnach himself. Can love ever really be its own world, free of morality and judgement and scandal? Moving, thought-provoking and superbly written, The Larnachs is a memorable piece of fiction from one of our wisest authors.
About the Author
Owen Marshall is a novelist, short-story writer and poet, who has written or edited over twenty books to date. Awards for his fiction include the New Zealand Literary Fund Scholarship in Letters, fellowships at Otago and Canterbury universities and the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship in Menton, France. In 2000 he received the CNZM for services to literature and his novel Harlequin Rex won the Montana New Zealand Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction. In 2002 the University of Canterbury awarded him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters, and in 2005 appointed him an adjunct professor.
Vivid, subtle and compelling, this is historical fiction at its very best.
With typically precise crafting and rich authenticity Owen Marshall has given voice to two little known characters of one of the great and tragic scandals of late 19th century New Zealand politics. William Larnach’s young wife Conny and his son Dougie each tell the story of their developing friendship and love affair and its tragic outcome. The Larnachs are fresh, immediate, and totally convincing.