Passing Through by Coral Atkinson
Historical novelist Coral Atkinson has long wanted to write a novel using Lyttelton as a setting. Her previously published fiction (The Love Apple and The Paua Tower, Random House NZ Ltd.) explored New Zealand’s unique history and were imbued with what the Dominion Post described as 'a strong sense of period and place'.
Passing Through is no exception. In it Atkinson traces the lives of four people as they come to terms with the wreckage left behind by the First World War.
Two former soldiers find themselves in this quiet corner of Canterbury: one is an officer from England, trying to make his fortune offering bogus séances and preying on wealthy widows. The other is a returned New Zealand private, tormented by the horrors of the trenches, on the run from his own memories. The two men are on a collision course, but Passing Through’s tightly-paced plot also sees them intersect with the lives of a couple of young women: Nan, a housemaid haunted by visions of the dead, and Louisa Craddock, still grieving for her husband, killed in France before even seeing his daughter. While her mother searches desperately for signs from the afterlife, the child Poppy has struck up a secret friendship with the wild-haired young man she finds hiding in their garden.
Passing Through takes place in a world veiled by shifting secrets and lies, where it is difficult to tell the truth from a parlour trick. Yet, set against the backdrop of the Port Hills, a tender human drama unfolds.
Atkinson has lived on Banks Peninsula for twenty years and her love of the area is one of the motivations for writing this book. It seems especially appropriate now, since she evokes the 1920s port so accurately; when so many of Lyttelton's historic buildings have since been lost to the earthquake. 'What happens after a great tragedy frequently gets glossed over, but it interests me. I can see it now unfolding after the Christchurch earthquakes,' she says.
Release date: late April 2014
Publisher: Dancing Tuatara in association with Whitireia Publishing
Distributor: Greene Phoenix Marketing Sales