Catching the Current

Written by Jenny Pattrick
Review by Elizabeth Jane

Catching the Current is a companion to Jenny Pattrick’s earlier “Denniston” novels. It tells the story of Conrad Rasmussen, the enigmatic and absent father of Rose.

Having fled the Faroe Islands after an unfortunate indiscretion, the young Conrad (now styled Enok) is tracked down by a boyhood friend, Napoleon Haraldsen. The family seeks his return to the Faroe Islands. Although he is deeply attached to the Faroes, being a gifted teller of their traditional tales, this news does not please Enok. He has formed an attachment to the Maori woman Anahuia. Enok’s escape plan backfires. Enok has no alternative but to carry the tragic news of Napoleon’s untimely death home to his family, leaving Anahuia alone and pregnant in New Zealand.

Catching the Current is told in Pattrick’s lively present-tense narrative voice. Starting in mid-19th century New Zealand, the story takes us across the sea to Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Sydney. The telling is non-linear and sophisticated, the characterisation lively and astute. In each location a vivid sense of community, with its inherent tensions, is created. The narrative is set against a backdrop of the New Zealand Land Wars and the Second War of Schleswig. Pattrick uses wider political and racial conflict to grapple with deeper, personal issues such as tradition versus innovation, freedom as opposed to constraint, and the double-edged plights of coloniser and colonised.

If you have not encountered Pattrick’s earlier works, I encourage you not to stop at Catching the Current. Denniston Rose and Heart of Coal are also worth reading.