An intrepid family of settlers from New Zealand are determined to make a remote volcanic island their own.’
Mr Peacock’s Possessions is a novel written by Lydia Syson. After stumbling upon a story from her husband’s family history, Lydia Syson set about her research and wrote a book, an epic adventure, encapsulating the life of the early settlers. But there is also a very dark side to this tale….
I previously joined Lydia on tour with her book with an extract, which you can read HERE.
Published recently by Bonnier Zaffre , it is described as ‘an intimate, intense and beautifully realised novel of possession, power and the liberating loss of innocence, this will delight fans of MISTER PIP and THE POISONWOOD BIBLE.’
Please do read on for my thoughts…
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……
When I joined the blog tour for Mr Peacock’s Possessions I was very fortunate to have been sent a gorgeous hardback copy but, as I knew that it was a book that I would not be rushing, I left it until the summer to read.
Mr. Peacock’s Possessions tells the tale of a restless family, a family with the need to fulfill an ambition to explore and discover a place to call their own. Over the years Mr Peacock has tried his hand at many roles to earn a crust but it is when he hears of an island for sale, quite a distance away from the mainland of New Zealand, that his attention is truly peaked. As he considers the countless possibilities available to them, a relatively undiscovered land that they could make their home, he decides on making an offer.
‘This island will change everything for this family. Land. That’s the important thing. That’s what a man needs to survive. To take his place in history. To keep his name. This land will be our future. Your future.’
His wife is a very stoic lady who has stood by his side through all the hardships presented them. Not one to run away from a challenge she gives her support, but it is his daughter, Lizzie, who is his most enthusiastic supporter and as their adventure begins to this island in the middle of Oceania, Lizzie cannot contain her excitement at the possibilities of this new life ahead of them.
Arriving on the island, they are faced with quite a formidable task. The land has not been cultivated in recent times and the food that they arrived with is spoilt. But this is The Peacock family. They have known rough times before and survived, once they all stick together….
Albert Peacock has always had a weak constitution and has never quite lived up to his father’s expectations. Try as he might, he is oft-times berated for his weaknesses. Travelling to this isolated place was always going to be an extra challenge for Albert but with the support of his siblings he muddles on.
As time passes the family are struggling to support themselves. Food is very difficult to come by on the island and, with very limited rations available, they are always on the lookout for passing ships. One day they are unable to contain their excitement when a boat is spotted in the distance. A fire is lit to attract attention and the family breathe a sigh of relief when the ship sails in their direction. On board are six Pacific Islanders, all searching for work in the hope of earning monies for their own families back home.
As the settlers become acquainted with these folk from foreign soil, it is noticed that young Albert is missing. Initially it is thought that he has lost track of time but as dusk approaches, Mrs Peacock raises serious concerns for her son’s safety. As sunlight rises over the island, Albert still is not be found and they organise a search party, dividing the area between the newcomers and the remaining Peacock family members.
Kalala, one of the newcomers, tells us his side of the story, giving us a wonderfully different perspective on the happenings on this remote island.
‘I wake again and again and wish we had never come to this place. It seems to me that we have broken into the middle of a story and now we are part of it.’
As the search continues over many days and the weeks pass by, the story reveals itself to the reader through the eyes and words of all.
Mr Peacock’s Possessions is a novel with many layers. It is dark, mysterious and, at times, quite eerie as Lydia Syson brings the sounds and harshness of this rather hostile island to life. It is an unforgiving and brutal environment to survive in and as it’s residents soon discover, there are secrets to be revealed. I have seen Mr Peacock’s Possessions described as ‘The Swiss Family Robinson meets Lord of the Flies’ by Wendy Moore and I honestly think that is a very apt description. There is a foreboding presence within this tale that stays with you throughout. It’s a great read for all who love historical fiction with quite a menacing sting to it’s tail but it is also filled with hope and endurance.
A beautifully expressed novel by Lydia Syson with an uncompromising narrative, Mr Peacock’s Possessions contains a very vivid portrayal of the life and challenges faced by the early colonial settlers.
Enthralling. Unflinching. Ominous.
Purchase Link ~ Mr Peacock’s Possessions
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