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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

By the Green of the Spring by Paddy Richardson

This is the follow-up to Through the Lonesome Dark, but you don't need to read the first book to enjoy By the Green of the Spring. (Although you will immediately want to race and devour the other book!)

This historical novel opens in the small mining town of Blackball on the West Coast. Otto Bader and Pansy Williams are caught up in an intoxicating love affair that they keeping quiet for the time being, but they plan to spend their lives together, have a family and grow old.

But the First World War brutally rips the young couple apart when Otto, who is of German descent, is forcibly removed from his home and forced to endure the duration of the war interned on Somes Island in Wellington Harbour as an 'enemy alien.' Otto's story is told through a series of lengthy letters to Pansy. Pansy is pregnant and marries her childhood friend Clem Bright, whose story is told through their daughter Lena's eyes. Lena reveals the family's difficulties from a child's perspective, especially when Clem returns from war, not just physically damaged but psychologically harmed.

Both stories are moving, but I found Otto's story was the part of the book that had me urgently turning the pages, horrified by the conditions and treatment of real-life 'enemy aliens' at this time incarcerated on Somes Island – made all the more poignant with the glittering lights of Wellington so close, but yet a world away.

You will have to read the book to see what happens to these unforgettable characters, but I can say that Paddy Richardson has created a compelling and haunting love story, beautifully written and meticulously researched. The ending moved me to tears. By the Green of the Spring is storytelling at its best.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Quentin Wilson Publishing


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