‘Dougie’s story and mine is not told in the history of William Larnach. It is our private journey, and only we understand how it came about; only we know the fitness and the wonder of it.’ William James Mudie Larnach’s name resonates in New Zealand history – the self-made man who built the famous ‘castle’ on Otago Peninsula, the politician who shot himself in Parliament in October 1898. He was driven to suicide by financial ruin, and by the discovery that his much younger third wife, Constance de Bathe Brandon, was having an affair with his son, Douglas. And it is the story of Conny and Dougie that lies at the heart of Owen Marshall’s subtle and compelling new novel. The socially restrictive world of late nineteenth-century Dunedin and Wellington springs vividly to life as Marshall traces the deepening love between stepmother and stepson, and the slow disintegration of the domineering yet vulnerable figure of Larnach himself. Can love ever really be its own world, free of morality and judgement and scandal? Moving, thought-provoking and superbly written, The Larnachs is a memorable piece of fiction from one of our wisest authors.
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