Lewisville by Alexandra Tidswell – 2016

LewisvilleLewisville follows the life of Martha Masters / Grimm / Lewis from the hard turnip fields of 1815 Warwickshire to a grand house in 1871 Wellington, NZ.  It documents the successes, the lies, the mistakes and the omissions of Martha and those around her as they try to carve out a better life for themselves and their families.  Martha is not a good woman, she has some good intentions, but in many ways she is reprehensible.  But the terrible things she does are those that people have done over and over again as they travel away from home in search of a better life.  Her story is about choices made, and how the lives of the members of one family play out in England, Tasmania, Victoria and New Zealand.  But it is also a story of human dispersal, a behaviour that has impacted on New Zealand from the earliest times when the canoes arrived from Hawaiki.  Martha arrives in New Zealand during the disorganised time of the New Zealand Company, but waves of migration continue, through my parents arriving in the 1960s to make a better life, to the ongoing arrivals of migrants and refugees hoping for the same.  Lewisville is based on the true story of Tidswell’s family and is told in strict chronological order, it occasionally wanes a bit but for the most part keeps you engaged in the tangled tale of one family through time.  It shows how even those who have decided to escape repeat patterns from the past, how human resilience often overcomes the direst of circumstances, and that when you travel to divest yourself of decisions made, they often hop on board and stay with you throughout your journey.  Tidswell has pieced together the true fragments of her family’s story and woven in plausible fictional motives and actions to present a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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