Award-winning novelist Paddy Richardson latest novel Through the Lonesome Dark is a departure from her previous crime novels. In this compelling historical novel, she looks at a dark time in the past. Set on the West Coast of New Zealand before the First World War, it follows the story of Pansy, Clem and Otto from children to adults.
As young children, the three friends love living in Blackpool, and they spend hours swimming in the creek and playing. But the harsh realities are that this is a mining town, and when they are of a certain age, the boys are destined to go down the mine, and Pansy is facing a life of domestic drudgery. The sheer hard work of the adults in this novel is unrelenting and realistic of the era – a time that wasn’t for people who didn’t have physical stamina.
Pansy is the key character in this novel. She is a clever girl and could get a scholarship and go to school in Greymouth. She has a good relationship with her father until this issue comes up and he stops her from following her dreams. Her father is a man who is quick with his fists at the pub and home, and her mother has slowly become a punching bag. As World War I approaches, things become even more fraught when Clem goes away to war and is part of the NZ Tunnelling Company.
Paddy has obviously done extensive research on this time in history. Clem’s experiences of being a tunneller during the war are particularly fascinating. Through the Lonesome Dark is an engaging, at times heart-breaking novel from this experienced and versatile author. I predict this novel will win awards as it is so well-written, the characters are so well-drawn, and the setting is so real you feel like you are there.