If you have read and enjoyed Jenny Pattrick’s latest, Harbouring, do go for a romp around her backlist. They’re consistently good. I’ve just reread Catching the Current and enjoyed it the second time around even more than in 2005 when it was first published.
This is a prequel to Denniston Rose, but reads as a stand-alone story based on the early life of Faroe Islander, Conrad Rasmussen—known to Denniston fans as Con the Brake. He’s tall, fair and handsome, playful, talkative, a renowned singer and teller of tales, and pretty full of himself. He excels at everything he turns his hand to, a man not to be ignored. He’s quick to temper and loyal to his friends—a lover, a hero.
This story is wide in geographical scope, from the interior of Manawatu to the Faroe Islands, land wars in Denmark and sea wars with Germany and across to Sydney, and there are multiple storytellers. Conrad has the main voice, but we hear as well from his Māori lover, Anahuia who becomes an increasingly strong voice in the present and (when we lose Conrad to his years in Denniston) in the future towards which we are slowly moving.
Napoleon, Con’s childhood friend, also takes the story across the world when he goes in search of Conrad, and in an historical aside he offers background to the wars and upheavals in Europe that powered so much colonial migration. I found the Faroe Island settings fascinating, a tiny population of proud people trying to hold onto their culture and oral language while being ruled from the distant Denmark and balancing the advantages/disadvantages of this. A familiar conundrum in another context.
Denmark’s former prime minister, Bishop Monrad, together with his family are a true part of the New Zealand story, which gives an introduction to Danish immigration in the lower North Island.
This is a story well rooted in colonial times with all the associated messy complications. Jenny Pattrick puts people in the context of the world history around them but their lives are personal. Her characters always have beating hearts.