Sunday, February 14, 2010

Review of ACCESS ROAD in WildTomato

One of the magazines I write for is WildTomato, the magazine of Nelson and Marlborough. It's a fantastic, glossy lifestyle magazine full of interesting interviews, feature articles, and columns. I'm actually responsible for the monthly sports/outdoors column and the Books Page, amongst other things (features, the odd travel article etc). I started helping out with the books page last year, contributing the odd review here and there, but have now taken over the page. Each month I review two books (including, as you can imagine given my proclivities, a reasonable percentage of crime/thriller titles); usually one fiction and one non-fiction, with at least one somewhat tied to the Nelson/Marlborough regions of New Zealand.

Although generally I won't reprint reviews I've written for other publications here on this blog (preferring to link where possible), as WildTomato doesn't yet have its archived book reviews available online, and I haven't written any online-available reviews of Maurice Gee's most recent (and perhaps final) adult fiction work, I am including that review here for your information.


Widely considered ‘New Zealand’s greatest living author’, Nelson-based Maurice Gee has penned dozens of beloved tales, ranging from children’s to adult, fantasy to realism. The near-octogenarian’s latest (and reportedly, perhaps last) adult novel, Access Road, may be slim in size (200 pages), but it’s still a very good read, packed with trademark Gee themes, style, and moments.

Elderly Rowan Pinker narrates a brooding tale of family relationships and dark secrets, shifting back and forth in time as she searches her memory for reasons behind her bedridden brother Lionel’s silence. Rowan lives a somewhat-contented life with her “silly old git” of a husband Dickie, a cheerful drunk, in “upper crusty” Takapuna - but regularly visits her siblings Roly and Lionel, who’ve moved back to the old family home in Access Road, Loomis (a fictionalised West Auckland). Visits that spark a flood of memories, not all of them pleasant; particularly those involving sinister childhood friend Clyde Buckley. Is he the key to Lionel’s troubles?

Gee writes with spare elegance, ably evoking the landscape (natural and human) of small-town Loomis. He is a maestro at creating layered characters full of ambiguity, depth and conflict; shades of grey rather than black and white. Rowan is a geriatric everywoman, but has she compromised her morality in the past, allowing darkness to flourish? Once again Gee scratches below the surface, finding the menace behind the mundane, the evil behind the everyday. A solid addition to a remarkable writing career.


  1. Craig - What a fine review of what sounds like a compelling read! I always enjoy characters who are multi-layered and complex...

  2. I've been interested to discover your blog via Bookman Beattie. The Gee review is great, thanks. I haven't read this book yet but just yesterday a visiting relative asked if I'd read it, so now I can quote you! One thing, like you I had a long column on the right of my blog posts full of info, but blogspot now offers pages you can put all that stuff into - I just did the transfer and I think it makes the blog easier to navigate and the information more readily available... I'd recommend it. Have a squizz at mine if you want to see how it works.

  3. Thanks Mary - that's a great suggestion. I've been mulling that over for a while - a way to deal with the increasingly long lists (e.g. the other kiwi crime/thriller/mystery/suspense authors one, which only started with a handful of links). It's great if Blogspot has a solution - so I will work on getting that sorted soon.