I was in the community library the other day, struggling to find something to read, when Denniston Rose caught my eye. I had heard of the story about a coal mining village on the West Coast of the South Island, but didn’t really take much notice. I decided, why not – History about the area in which I live. I shrugged and picked it up.
When I started reading I wondered if I would actually finish it. It seemed to be more of a history lesson than an actual novel, but by the half way mark I was hooked. The story is about a young girl who is dragged by her mother to a hell hole on earth, a little coal mining village of Denniston. Rose becomes a local character, as does her dubious mother, but you can’t change your relatives. Rose is loved by most who meet her, and hated by those who don’t understand her. By the time I finished the story, I had to get the next one, which was luckily at the library when I went there next.
Heart of Coal takes place 18 years later, Rose is a grown woman, who is pretty much an enigma to all who know her and love her. She had a tumultous life, but by the time I finished this story, I could relate to the woman. Even though the story takes place between 1880’s in the first book and the early part of the 1900’s in the second, I could very much understand that woman that was Rose, the decisions she made, the life that she lived. A woman very much ahead of her time, as a place like Denniston would no doubt breed.
There is a third book, about Rose’s father, that we are introduced to in the first book, and gain a smaller insight in the second book, but it isn’t about Rose, which is where my heart is. This woman has captivated me, her strong survival instinct shines through. And yes, I am aware that Rose is a fictional character, but Denniston does exist, and now, more than anything else in the world, it is a place I want to visit, I want to see where the incline was, where Burnetts face is, the camp, the town of Denniston itself – it has made me passionate about my own country!
So thank you Jenny Pattrick for providing such a wonderful character as Rose of Denniston, long may she live in peoples hearts.
PS – on Wednesday 7 April, I was down the West Coast for work, and I took the opportunity to visit the ghost town that is now Denniston. Wow, what an experience. While it was only a brief drive through, I intend to return and explore the place more to see more of the incline (which was closed for upgrade (presume that means clearing scrub, because the incline is no longer there!) ) and go up to Burnetts Face. It was incredible to see coal seams in the rock just on the drive up there! It was an awesome experience and I thank Jenny for bringing the place alive for me.