14 March 2021

Review: THE TALLY STICK, Carl Nixon

  • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN : B089SC8KLH
  • Publisher : Random House New Zealand (August 4, 2020)
  • Language : English
  • File size : 547 KB
  • Print length : 234 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)  

A compulsive and chilling novel about subjugation, survival and the meaning of family.

Up on the highway, the only evidence that the Chamberlains had ever been there was two smeared tyre tracks in the mud leading into the almost undamaged screen of bushes and trees. No other cars passed that way until after dawn. By that time the tracks had been washed away by the heavy rain . . . It was a magic trick. After being in the country for only five days, the Chamberlain family had vanished into the air. The date was 4 April 1978.

In 2010 the remains of the eldest Chamberlain child have been discovered in a remote part of the West Coast, showing he lived for four years after the family disappeared. Found alongside him are his father’s watch and what turns out to be a tally stick, a piece of wood scored across, marking items of debt.

How had he survived and then died? Where was the rest of his family? And what is the meaning of the tally stick?

My Take

Thirty two years after he and his family disappeared in a remote part of New Zealand Mo Chamberlain's skeleton turns up on an equally remote beach.  At the time when the family and their car disappeared the land near the highway was searched extensively but no trace was ever found, of the car, of the husband and wife, or the four children.

We are in the car with them as it plunges off the road, and with the children as they wait for rescue. What follows is beyond belief.

We are with Suzanne, Julia Chamberlain's sister, when the New Zealand High Commission rings 32 years later to say a body has been found. We know Suzanne has been to New Zealsnd 4 times in the intervening years, the first just 3 weeks after the family disappeared, trying to work out where they had gone.

Highly recommended.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Carl Nixon is an award-winning short story writer, novelist and playwright. He has twice won the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition, and won the Bank of New Zealand Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition in 2007. His first book, Fish ’n’ Chip Shop Song and other stories went to number one on the New Zealand bestselling fiction list, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.

Nixon completed his first novel while he was the Ursula Bethell/Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence at Canterbury University in 2006. Rocking Horse Road saw him identified as ‘a major talent’ by North & South, and was long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2009. It has been published in China, France, and Germany and was on several lists for the best crime novels in Germany in 2012. His second novel, Settlers’ Creek, was also long-listed for the Dublin Literary Award. His novel, The Virgin and the Whale is being developed as a feature film by South Pacific Pictures.

His stage plays have been produced in every professional theatre in New Zealand. They include Mathew, Mark, Luke and Joanne,The Birthday Boy and The Raft. He has adapted for the stage Lloyd Jones’s novel The Book of Fame and JM Coetzee’s Disgrace. He was awarded the 2020 Howard McNaughton Prize at the Adam NZ Play Awards, recognising excellence in a unproduced script.

In 2018 Carl Nixon was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in France where he worked on The Tally Stick.

See more at www.carlnixon.co.nz/

1 comment:

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