Review - THE CHILDREN'S POND, Tina Shaw
THE CHILDREN'S POND is a debut crime novel for NZ author Tina Shaw, a well-known writer in her native New Zealand, it's written with the authority of an experienced author. Especially as it puts a city girl, moved to the country to be closer to her son in jail; somebody with a dodgy dating history, but a strong work ethic; and debutante fly fisher into the central character in a surprisingly taut analysis / thriller. It's not often that somebody can combine fly fishing and a dark, interweaving of evil, and secrets and make a river a character into the bargain.
A novel based around sense of place and character, there's a lot of back story filled in for Jessica, her family (parents / foster children raised alongside her) and now her son. Most of this is dotted throughout the narrative so it will take a while for readers to get to know these people, and there's no doubt at all that there is something being held back. Less of an unreliable narrator however, this reads as Jess being somebody coming to terms with the past, present and future at the same time as the reader.
Based loosely around the structure of a crime novel (a young girl is found dead, then another death, both of which are suspicious), THE CHILDREN'S POND is more an exploration of consequences in many ways. Jess, her sister, son, parents and her lovers - past and present, all come together and push apart, exploring the way that the past leaves fingerprints all over everything. There is a thriller overtone - somehow for such a beautiful place, and a beautiful river, there's something sinister, something in the undercurrents of this society.
This is an absorbing read, and you will need to have your concentration glasses on to tackle THE CHILDREN'S POND. There are little hints, and clues dotted throughout the narrative that you need to keep up with, and whilst the pace could allow you to charge through, it's better if you slow, watch, and catch the clues cast about. The Tongariro River is a beautiful setting, but it's also a wonderful analogy. The undercurrents, the weaving through a place and people's lives, the ripples, the quick flash of tempting flies darting across the surface...
An unusual approach, and not just because of the fly fishing, THE CHILDREN'S POND wasn't at all what I'd expected. In a good way.
Jessica Pollard has moved to Turangi to be near her son Reuben who is in prison there. While working at a trout-fishing lodge on the Tongariro River, Jessica slips into a relationship with a handsome, charming Maori lawyer. When the body of his troubled niece Chantelle is found in the Children's Pond, Jessica's own past as a teenager in prison comes back to haunt her. What really happened to her all those years ago? And what is the connection with Chantelle's death?