February 14, 2018 by Lydia Syson
‘an intelligent, beautifully written book about a dysfunctional family in a sinister paradise‘ (ANTONIA SENIOR in THE TIMES – BOOK OF THE MONTH)
‘Powerful, intense and beautiful, this novel will stay with me for a long time.’ (HISTORICAL NOVEL REVIEW)
‘In this electrifying story of a man’s obsession, the setting is a remote Pacific island in 1879, where the Peacock family are joined by a pair of Polynesian brothers. Appalled by the decrepitude of the Pacocks, missionary-trained Kalala strikes up a friendship with the daughter Lizzie, to discover that the situation is far worse than he imagined. Lushly written, with immaculate historical details, it worked for me on many levels.‘ (WOMEN AND HOME)
‘Swiss Family Robinson meets Lord of the Flies in Lydia Syson’s superb and engrossing book. This scintillating story evokes an island paradise which descends into a nightmarish hell as Mr Peacock’s Possessions builds towards a shocking revelation and a thrilling climax.’ (WENDY MOORE)
‘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.’
Lizzie Peacock and her siblings have lived a hardscrabble life since their mother and father brought them to settle a remote and uninhabited island in the Pacific. For two years the family has survived on next to nothing, yet Lizzie’s father Mr Peacock has not given up the particular swagger that comes from possessing a wife, children, a patch of land and hope for the future. And now, perhaps, a gang of islanders who have come to work for him.
Kalala is one of these men. A longing to see the world has brought him eight hundred miles from his isolated Polynesian home. Missionary-educated, he is shocked to find these ragged children who cannot read.
Albert, Mr Peacock’s eldest son, suffers bitterly from his father’s obsessions. All he wants is to get away from him and from the island. When a ship comes, he thinks he can grab his chance.
As Lizzie and Kalala unpick the mystery of Albert’s disappearance, the terrible secrets that the island itself is harbouring are slowly revealed: all the certainties underpinning the life that Mr Peacock has constructed begin to unravel, with unimaginable consequences.
This is a novel about possession, both literal and metaphorical. Through an encounter between two migrating groups – a family of roving settlers originally from England, and a pair of Polynesian brothers, members of a work party whose Pacific island home was converted to Christianity a generation or so earlier – Mr Peacock’s Possessions explores timeless themes of family relationships, faith and belonging. It throws new light on a particularly fascinating historical moment, little explored in contemporary British fiction and too often obscured by stereotypes and fantasy. In the late nineteenth century, the Pacific world was in flux: whalers, slavers, missionaries, islanders, traders, settlers and beachcombers were on the move and in conflict, and islands and people were both seemingly up for grabs.
Read more about the true story in my extended family history at The History Girls.
Reviews from the blog tour:
Globe Trove said “Mr Peacock’s Possessions is a gripping novel… I’m in love with Lydia Syson’s writing.”
Novel Thief said, “I absolutely love this book. It was an amazing read.”
A Book and Tea said it was “a wonderfully written piece.”
Ronnie Turner posted an extract, but also made sure to comment that “the extract has definitely whet my appetite for more!“
Jaffa Reads Too said “Lydia Syson’s skill as a storyteller brings Monday Island. . .and its eccentric inhabitants so vividly to life.“
Rony at Breakaway Reviewers gave the novel 5 stars and noted that “This certainly is one of the most powerful, brilliantly written books. . .a wonderful book club read. The storyline is so powerful and so thought-provoking. . . Lydia Syson managed to hook from the very first line.“
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