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The Larnachs

3.23  ·  Rating Details ·  109 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
'Dougie's story and mine is not told in the history of William Larnach. It is our private journey, and only we understand how it came about; only we know the fitness and the wonder of it.'

William James Mudie Larnach's name resonates in New Zealand history - the politician and self-made man who built the famous 'castle' on Otago Peninsula. In 1891, after the death of his fi
Paperback, 293 pages
Published June 3rd 2011 by Vintage (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 11, 2011 Sara rated it liked it
William Larnach built the famous castle on Otago Peninsula and married the much younger constance de Bathe Brandon. The story revolves around the relationship between Conny and William's younger son, Dougie. The impossibility of a relationship such as this back in the nineteenth century is vividly brought to life as is the disintegration of Larnach himself.

It is based on a true story, well written and a fascinating look at life of the early settlers.

Sep 04, 2011 Madteapartier rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Dunedin residents, kiwis, New Zealanders, Dunedin-ites, NZers
Compelling, well written historical fiction, based on actual people & events. Particularly interesting to me because I'm from Dunedin & have visited Larnach's Castle. The main characters are believable and the plot is delivered in a suspenseful well paced manner, without sensationalism. Highly recommended! (:
Oct 11, 2011 Donna rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. This is multi layered and textured, full of interesting language and way of speaking that one might have imagined colonial New Zealanders to have expressed themselves.

The story and descriptions are definately enhanced by the fact that the subjects were real, and by having visited 'The Camp.' Owen Marshall makes it quite a different place to the sunny place I visited, but it is easy to imagine thanks to the combination of memory and Marshall's descriptions.

The characters a
Feb 18, 2012 Senga rated it liked it
This was a novel of two halves for me. Loved the first half, literally devoured it but it seemed to lose it's way somewhat and became mired in the relationships between the main characters. Having said that, I would still recommend this as a solid read.
Jenny2 rated it really liked it
Dec 17, 2011
Jan 16, 2012 Tiffany rated it really liked it
Shelves: nz-authors
Really really liked it. Beautifully and cleverly written. The way he tracks the evolution of a marriage and a relationship through the voices of his two main characters is just brilliantly done. It felt almost voyeuristic to watch the relationship evolve as it did. Absolutely fascinating glimpse into NZ society at the end of the 1800s. And the mark of any well-written historical fiction, it's left me wanting to know more. What an interesting family the Larnachs were.
Mar 07, 2012 Helen rated it liked it
Although an interesting look at a fascinating time in New Zealand history, the writing itself missed the mark for me - a matter of personal taste, rather than any real problems, but the descriptive style made it harder for me to connect with the characters. More frustrating is the lack of a full author's note to explain just which bits are true, and which imagined.
May 01, 2012 Camille rated it really liked it
This was an unexpectedly gripping read. It's an incredible historical tale of a fascinating character (William Larnach) a self made member of the NZ rich and MP and his marriage to a much younger fiesty woman's libber and her relationship in turn with William Larnach's son. It was very moving and wonderful to imagine the events taking place at Larnach Castle as well as the references to others of the time.
Jul 06, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Loved this...but am going to have to be careful not to fall into the trap of believing every word to be true! It is a novel, not a biography...but written about real people (who may or may not have lived lives as exciting as the novel!). Can't wait to get back to Dunedin and revisit Larnach Castle a.k.a 'The Camp', and imagine Conny and Dougie living their secret life...

Well written, in the alternating voices of Conny and Dougie. Great insight into the way people's minds (may or may not have) wo
Aug 17, 2012 Joy rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 21, 2012 Linda rated it it was ok
I might be out of step with other reviews, but here goes.
I am from Dunedin and have family ties with the early property owners on the peninsula. I was looking forward to a trip in history with familiar landmarks, but what I received was a repetitive story line with way too much time spent on 'hand-holding in the carriage'. I must not forget that this is a story not a history lession. It was all a bit slow for my liking.
Kristie Saumure
Oct 03, 2012 Kristie Saumure rated it liked it
Liked it, but not as much as I'd hoped. Found the long and rambling style to be a bit tedious some times. Was an interesting tale that was being told though. Main characters were a touch self-centered, but that wasn't what bothered me in particular. Worth a read if you're trying to get yourself in the mood for a holiday on the Otago Peninsula (like me!).
Michelle rated it liked it
Nov 28, 2012
Mark Field
The Camp or as its more commonly known, Larnarch's Castle is without a doubt ripe for the picking in such a novel as this. The history and tragedy of Larnach is well known to me, and The Camp has always held a fascination as did the other colonial mansions of Dunedin. Owen Marshall's delightfully subversive telling of the Larnarch story is every bit a colonial Victorian bodice ripper filled with the starchy morality of colonial society yet with a contemporary edge. Marshall is a New Zealand lite ...more
Kate rated it liked it
Jan 22, 2013
Jan 23, 2013 Bachyboy rated it liked it
The book alternates between Larnach's third wife, Connie and her step son and love interest, Duggie. I found this a sad, somewhat depressing book and I am not sure it is wholly successful as a novel. There was an absence of dialogue and I really missed that. Overall it is worth reading though and I might even revisit the castle!
Claire rated it liked it
Jun 29, 2013
Kathleen Dixon
Feb 14, 2014 Kathleen Dixon rated it it was ok
Recommended to Kathleen by: BLK February Group read
If I was writing this review for a professional publication I would give it 4 stars, not 2. This is an excellent historical novel - the political and economic situation around the turn of the 20th century is drawn skillfully into the plot, and the social conventions of the time are brought to life in the narration.

But, I almost didn't finish this because I so disliked both Conny and Dougie. I guess that's the mark of well-defined characters, that the reader has her/his emotions activated, but I
Penguin Random House NZ
Feb 10, 2014 Penguin Random House NZ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, nz
(Katharine) I was fascinated to read the backstory of one of New Zealand's 'founders', William Larnarch, from the perspective of his 3rd wife. A surprisingly moving and compelling story. Owen Marshall's writing has a deft and subtle touch.
Mar 10, 2014 Vicky rated it it was ok
I just couldn't get into the writing style for this book - it was all telling and no showing - so it was a big disappointment for me. The history woven into the story line was interesting, but the characters were portrayed as either selfish, arrogant, immature or bitchy or a combination of all of them. I struggled to finish it, but the ending I found a satisfactory outcome to match my whole dislike.
Mar 09, 2014 Tamzen rated it it was ok
I hated this book. It was really slow to get into, and was basically just the same drivel repeated over and over again until the final two chapters. Conny and Dougie were the most annoying, childish characters I have ever encountered and my heart broke for William. It made me uncomfortable in quite a few places, and left me feeling depressed. I give it two stars as opposed to the one star I really want to give it only because the writing is definitely not bad, and it was certainly enough to evok ...more
Katrina Lawson
Katrina Lawson rated it really liked it
Jul 27, 2014
Anya Forest
Anya Forest rated it liked it
Mar 10, 2015
Carol rated it it was ok
Aug 11, 2015
Aug 29, 2015 Matt rated it really liked it
Brilliantly written, the her-then-his trade-off of chapters worked so very well. Especially how it was obvious "his" was not focused on the reality of their lives.
Kind of close to the bone, given the main two characters only died c.WWII... but I'm assuming Owen had some solid knowledge to guide him.
I'm now dying to visit "Larnach Castle", the homestead build by William Larnach near Dunedin in the 1870's/1880's.
Crazily enough, this is what's known as "Early New Zealand History".
Sarah rated it it was ok
Sep 01, 2015
Fiona Hyland
Fiona Hyland rated it it was ok
Sep 08, 2015
Amy Paulussen
Sep 12, 2015 Amy Paulussen rated it really liked it
Fascinating story, and I didn't know the history so it was a surprise how it ended. I didn't love the distance of the narrative voice and it took me a week to read the first couple of chapters, but then I finished it in two sittings - so the distance didn't hamper my interest for long. Based on a true story but I suspect very much made up from tiny bits of historical evidence - which I have no problem with by ardent historians might. Ambiguity of ending feels like a return to the coldness of his ...more
Mar 24, 2016 Barb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Captures the voices of the characters so well!
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Book Loving Kiwis: The Larnachs 36 27 Mar 10, 2015 11:07AM  
Owen Marshall has written, or edited, over twenty-five books. He has held fellowships at the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, and in Menton, France. In 2000, he received the Officer of the Order of New Zealand Merit (ONZM), and in the same year his novel Harlequin Rex won the Montana New Zealand Book Awards Deutz Medal for Fiction. Marshall is an adjunct professor at the University of Canterb ...more
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