by Robin Hyde
I’m trying to decide how I feel about this book – it certainly slowed down my reading pace (that & having the house reroofed – the sound of concrete tiles being removed & crashing to the ground made it hard to concentrate on anything!)
Robin Hyde is considered one of the greats in NZ literature. Born Iris Guiver Wilkinson, she was a free spirit, beautiful, bright & independent, sadly for her, she was born ahead of her time. Her bio on Goodreads is a c&p. It finishes abruptly (mid word!) in 1929 and she didn’t commit suicide (aged only 33) until 1939. So much to try to fit in. Not to elf: I really should fix the Goodreads bio up.
Here is her Wikipedia bio;
In the beginning, I was surprised and charmed by the light, whimsical tone in the tale of the self styled Baron de Thierry, probably the most
bat shit crazy err…eccentric of all of NZ’s pioneers. Part English, part French, believed to be born in the Dutch republic, de Thierry tried to establish his own sovereign state in early 19th century New Zealand. Missionary Bruce Kendall and two Maori Chiefs did the equivalent of selling de Thierry the Brooklyn Bridge when they sold him 40,000 acres of land.
This picture of de Thierry when young and idealistic. I like the way he is shown surrounded by clouds. It does seem very appropriate. Later pictures show him as looking old and disillusioned. He ended his days as a piano teacher in Auckland.
This is a very short summary of de Thierry’s life. Believe me, there is a lot more to it than that.
Like I said, I was charmed in the beginning. The style reminded me of Nancy Mitford’s Madame de Pompadour which was written around twenty years later. Unlike Mitford’s book (which really draws the reader in) in parts I really struggled with this book, which veered between being a history and historical fiction. It is only 288 pages long, but it took me a month to complete.
I want to read more Hyde, but I may continue with her most famous novel, The Godwits Fly just to make sure her style is for me.