Saturday, 10 March 2007

Moran Quartet Complete

TERESA MORAN –SOLDIER Ken Catran, illustrations by Gaston Vanzet, Lothian/ Hachette Livre, 233 pages, paperback, NZ$16.99
ISBN 987-0-7344-0963-8

The Moran family have a proud history in the New Zealand Army. Jacko Moran was a sniper at Gallipoli and the Western Front, while his son Robert served in Crete, El Alamein and Italy. Both won the VC. Jimmy Moran survived Vietnam and rose to be Chief of Staff. No, you haven’t been sleeping in history lessons. The Moran family are the creation of prolific novelist Ken Catran, who has started 2007 with a bang by winning the Margaret Mahy Medal, being appointed Writer-in-Residence at the University of Waikato and completing the award-winning Moran Quartet with Teresa Moran – Soldier.

Like the three generations before her, Teresa finds that the stress of combat damages her private life. Her use of flashbacks and research into family history gives the reader further insight into each of the Morans and their troubled personalities. Like her father before her, Lieutenant Teresa Moran learns that the enemy is not easy to identify in modern warfare; the press can sometimes be more dangerous. Leading a patrol into an ambush in Timor, she survives but finds herself in a media firestorm. When her father pulls strings to have Teresa attached to an Australian unit in Iraq, a terrorist group realises that kidnapping an important officer’s daughter would create publicity.

As usual Catran’s wide-ranging research creates plausible military confrontations, and Teresa’s smouldering conflict with her father is equally convincing. It is unfortunate that she spends so little of her first-person narrative serving with New Zealanders, but a representative band of Australians, Americans and Iraqis help fill the gap. Teresa’s exploits in Baghdad may be over-dramatised but the trademark gritty reality of the Moran saga has been maintained to the end.

Note: The other three novels are Jacko Moran - Sniper, Robert Moran - Private and Jimmy Moran – Regular.

Trevor Agnew

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