Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Inheritance by Jenny Patrick, $29.99 Random House Black Swan

Inheritance by Jenny Patrick, $29.99 Random House Black Swan

The word Inheritance has a myriad of definitions.  Inheritance can be defined as hereditary succession to an estate or title; the right of an heir to succeed on the death of an ancestor; something inherited; the act of inheriting; or the fact of receiving characteristics from an earlier generation by heredity.

Jenny Patrick entwines all of these meanings in her new novel Inheritance.  This book is not a follow on from her previous books Denniston Rose or Heart of Coal.  Instead it is set in Samoa at the time that New Zealand assumed  governorship.  It seems they did not perform that brilliantly in this role.  The palagi arrogance of knowing best clashed with fa’asamoa and made for many serious misunderstandings.  Patrick cleverly uses three different narrators to tell this story, but at its heart this is the story of Jeannie Roper.  Jeannie arrives in Samoa with her father and husband to inherit a plantation from a previously unknown German Samoan relative.  This inheritance will put both families under strain.  Jeannie’s new friend and relative Elena, who has recently returned from living and studying in New Zealand also narrates her version of events and is torn between her inheritance of Samoan custom and common sense modern ideas which often are at odds with each other.  And we also hear the story from Hamish who is a New Zealand solicitor who has been on the island for years.  His is generally an impartial objective view, but is still influenced by his palagi inheritance.

This is a story of young romance, flirtation, tradition, obligations and expectations.  Patrick has assembled a diverse cast in a seemingly beautiful setting.  Her story is one that questions how we inherit and what we should do with our inheritance.  At least two characters have to face up to their right to know the truth of their inheritance.


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