Access Road: Maurice Gee

Just sometimes, in the annualwhirl at this time of year ofbig-name authors with newnovels for the yuletideseason, along comes a slenderjewel of a book like MauriceGee’s Access Road.

Gee, agiant of New Zealand letterswith more than 40 books to his credit, is allbut unknown in this country (compare thesimilar scenario of Lloyd Jones until Mister Pip came along), but I suspect that is allabout to change with this exquisite novel. Itis the story of the Beach family – in particular,the siblings Lionel, Roly and Rowan – asnarrated by the latter to her journal amidstthe everyday goings-on of life in retirement.As her brothers have moved back to thefamily home, her visits there bring memoriespouring back – of youthful escapades,adolescent fumblings, and those moments inlife that seemed to shape their destiniesforever.

Rowan’s husband, for instance, was on the verge of becoming an All Black untila sports mishap up-ended that dream and amore prosaic existence began. Lionel andRoly, too, seem to have lived under a shadow– but does the key to that lie in their sinisterchildhood friend Clyde Buckley? What wehave here, it seems to me, is almost anAntipodean ‘speak memory’ – the sights,smells and characters of the small town ofLoomis, the pains and secrets of families,and the allure and ache of memory recalled.

A truly magical book!