‘Oceania 1879. An intrepid family of settlers are determined to make a remote volcanic island their own’
Today I am delighted to be joining Lydia Syson on tour with her adult fiction debut Mr Peacock’s Possessions. Published with Zaffre Publishing (Bonnier Zaffre) on 17th May 2018, it is a novel described as ‘intimate, intense and beautifully realised, a novel of power, faith and the liberating loss of innocence’
The story is loosely based on the incredible true story of Tom Bell who settled an uninhabited pacific island with his family in 1878, six hundred miles north of New Zealand, in the Kermedecs, and who Lydia Syson is related to by marriage.
An intriguing premise and one I am looking forward to reading. In the meantime I have an extract for you all today to whet your appetites so sit back, relax and enjoy..
About the Book
For two years Joseph Peacock and his family have struggled alone with the harsh reality of trying to make this unforgiving place home. At last, a ship appears. Kalala and the other five Pacific Islanders on board have travelled over eight hundred miles in search of work and new horizons. Hopes are high for all, until a vulnerable boy vanishes.
In their search for the lost child, settlers and newcomers together uncover far more than they were looking for. The island¹s secrets force young Lizzie Peacock to question her deepest convictions, and slowly this tiny fragile community begins to fracture…..
To be sure I am a doubting Thomas. Too much curiosity, too little faith, and that from early days and always. Off duty, I stand on deck, wave-watching, awash with qualms. I let drift my mind and vex myself alone, afraid to frighten my fellows, whispering only to wind and water. All is wind and water here.
I did not choose this path – the path of doubting, that is to say, doubting both myself and higher matters. And now the ocean path we follow here, a path so freely taken, stretches before me unclear, unknown, unproven, and I worry and wonder still if it was wise to take it. What if we find no island, or if there is no master living? Where then will the Captain take us? And what if this Yankee has lied to us despite our minister? We have no papers. Proof of nothing. We leapt so fast. Nine days at sea, and we see nothing of our landing place.
My setting-forth desire was like an itch that I must scratch. It made me restless. I could not walk in circles all my days while others winged away. We hear how the world turns, and we want to see its turning with our own eyes. Its riches too. This is natural, says Mr Reverend. We whose fathers have been plucked from us, perhaps we feel most strong the call to venture. But there are calls and callings. I am no Gospel Ploughman, and do not share my brother’s thirst for pioneering in that blessed field.
I search again for my voyage-spirit, so strong on parting, so soon sped away. Way beyond our reef, the winds that blew within now skim my words away, quick as quickness, or blow ’em down my throat again, back into hiding. I tell myself it was timely to go, to seek a living beyond the skyline, to better all my family. I tell myself we can never know what is to come. I try to hide my fears – of failing, falling, flailing – but cannot shield all from all.
Because Solomona – holding the rail beside me, knuckle-soft – Solomona sees everything. Older (a little), taller (a little), steadier (always), my brother shake his head. Maybe he sees even into my cauldron-bubbling-mind. All-seeing, all-knowing, you know how it is. Like Him above, or would like to be, I sometimes reckon, before I dam my thinking. When the Trader-Captain came to our island, asking for men, quick quick – good jobs for good kanakas, working for an Englishman, no big plantation, no guano-gathering – it was not for his strength that Mr Reverend recommend Solomona but for his faith. And other reasons. All psalms, no qualms is my brother, even when grief is greatest. When I think it over more, very possibly, yes, indeed, most probably (I can have no doubt now), Solomona say what he say, despite all things, because he say what he always say, whatever he sees or fails to. Same as ever. Yes, same as ever.
God will provide.
God will provide.
Maybe so. Maybe no. But, I say – to myself alone, you understand, only inside my own head’s thinking – faith in the Lord is one matter, faith in men another.
Purchase Link (Pre Order) ~ Mr Peacock’s Possessions
Meet Lydia Syson
Lydia Syson is a fifth-generation North Londoner who now lives south of the river with her partner and four children. Lydia began her career as a BBC World Service radio producer, after receiving a double first in English from Oxford and an MA in critical theory from Southampton University. She has since written three critically acclaimed historical novels for young adults, each in some way inspired by the radical backgrounds of earlier generations of her family. The books include Liberty’s Fire, (Carnegie-nominated, Telegraph best YA titles of 2015) A World Between Us (Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize longlisted, Branford Boase Highly Commended,), That Burning Summer (Independent Best Books 2013).
With Mr Peacock’s Possessions, her adult fiction debut, she has borrowed from her New Zealand-born husband’s family history.
Lydia’s first book was Doctor of Love: James Graham and His Celestial Bed a biography of the eighteenth-century fertility guru, James Graham, who was known as the Electric Doctor.
Lydia is an RLF Fellow at The Courtauld Institute of Art and a National Literacy Trust trained author she regularly blogs at The History Girls on the 6th of every month
Website ~ http://www.lydiasyson.com/
Twitter ~ @LydiaSyson