La Rochelle’s Road

Written by Tanya Moir
Review by Bronwen Jones

La Rochelle’s Road, an enthralling tale set on a wild seacoast in remote New Zealand, is an outstanding read that deserves more attention.

In 1866, Daniel Peterson uproots his family from relative comfort in England to get rich growing cocksfoot grass seed on wild and isolated Banks Peninsula. Trouble is, the land he buys, sight unseen, is a mist-covered block of scrub and rock with a deadly drop to the sea. Daniel’s dream turns to hard labour—no thanks to mean-spirited neighbours—and as his heart hardens along with his muscles, his downtrodden wife and adolescent children make their own dramatic and unexpected escapes.

The story is told in multiple voices, primarily through daughter Hester, who unearths a secret journal written by the property’s former owner, explorer Etienne La Rochelle. The journal’s tale of La Rochelle’s love for the wife of his Maori guide weaves into the present story, capturing Hester and influencing her choices at the end.

La Rochelle’s Road is no clichéd colonial jaunt. The story is full of tension and surprises, and I was hooked to the end, which was satisfying and moving.

My only gripes are in relation to book design. The clichéd cover of a beautiful Victorian lady looking out on a benign sea resulted in this gripping novel languishing on my to-be-read pile for months. Also, the cursive font used for La Rochelle’s journal entries was all but indecipherable. Still, I persevered and read every word, which says a lot for the storyteller.

Tanya Moir was born in the South Island of New Zealand and has lived much of her life there. La Rochelle’s Road is her debut novel.

(Note: List price NZ$39.99; available as an ebook via Amazon US)