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Mr Peacock’s Possessions by Lydia Syson

Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
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‘Oceania 1879. 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….
Mr. Peacock’s Possessions tells the story 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.

(c) Swirl and Thread

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