Saturday, 25 November 2006

Lin and the Red Stranger, Ken Catran, 2003

LIN AND THE RED STRANGER Ken Catran, Random House, Auckland, New Zealand, 2003, 174 pages, paperback, NZ$16.95. ISBN 1-86941-577-9

Writing for young people in New Zealand is now in what will be seen as a golden age, with many of our best writers at the peak of their powers. Ken Catran, for example, had three novels (historic, science fiction and comic) nominated for this year’s NZ Post Children’s Book Awards.
He shows the same energy with Lin and the Red Stranger, the fast-moving story of a Chinese servant-girl in the Otago goldfields. Pedants might complain that since he has four Chinese women characters at a time when there were none in New Zealand, this book is a fantasy. Maybe so, but Lin’s view of events provides a fresh perspective, while her encounters with the “red stranger” – Declan, a red-haired Irish lad about to start a criminal career – creates an unusual conflict of cultures.

Trevor Agnew

First published in The Press, Christchurch on March 6th 2004.

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