Chappy is a family saga spanning the decades from the 1920s through the second world and into the 1980s – detailing lives, loves and losses. Daniel is a young man feeling out of place and context in the ‘stoniness’ of Europe, although fluent in four languages he feels isolated and one night smashes his car into a wall. His mother sends him back to his ancestral land in New Zealand to sort himself out. The novel is Daniel’s documenting of his family’s history in an attempt to understand who he is and where he came from.
I was immediately drawn into this beautifully written book set in New York. The protagonist is 13 year old Theo who is in trouble at school and being threatened with suspension. On the day he and his mother have to attend an interview about the situation at school, they visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the way. Whilst there, the building becomes the target of a fictional terrorist bombing.
“There is a form of idleness that is not relaxation, but the expression of malaise, a disenchantment with life.” Sheff has become disenchanted with his newspaper job and resigns with vague plans of travelling overseas. His father is dying of cancer and his sister persuades Sheff to travel with her to the family home in Central Otago to visit their father before he dies.
The title, On such a full sea, comes from Shakespeare’s “There is a tide in the affairs of men” speech from Julius Caesar. And this book, set in a dystopian future with the usual divide between the haves, the sort of haves and the definitely have-nots, is told as in the swellings and abating of societal trends and passions.
Sometimes you pick a novel up at just the right time – after a string of adrenalin reads and rich historical dramas I was in the right mood for Joanna King’s debut novel; an introspective piece about what it is that influences our relationships, our reactions to other people and our views on gender politics.
1953 – and Stalin is preparing the Soviet Union for a ‘final solution’ for Soviet Jews – lists are being drawn up, freight trains being gathered, citizens being programmed for a pogrom. State Security arrive at the apartment of Solomon Shimonovich Levinson – just a routine pickup for yet another person bound for Lubyanka, but …