The Larnachs

Owen MarsallI talked last week about attending The Larnachs, a Christchurch Writers Festival event with Owen Marshall, author of the recently released and well reviewed book of the same name. And on Sunday I frocked up and rocked up to the Cashmere Club – a fittingly posh-sounding place for a posh-sounding event. A sell-out crowd was in attendance, which was nice – some previous events have been down a little in numbers, which is such a shame, and it’s YOUR LOSS! Make it up to yourself, and make sure you get tickets for some of the events still to come …

Right, grump over, and back to Larnach Castle, or “the Camp”, as the family used to call it. Owen Marshall is one of New Zealand’s best-known and best-loved writers, and has once again put his talents to great use, bringing this story vividly to life. In conversation with the always wonderful Ruth Todd, Owen talked about the book, the family, the history and the scandal – the love triangle between William Larnach, patriarch; his second and best-loved son Dougie; and his third wife Connie, herself a member of another illustrious and political New Zealand family.

coverMuch of the session focused on how Owen actually wrote the book: whether he talked to the family beforehand (he didn’t); if he’s had any feedback from the family afterwards (he has, and all positive); how he decided the balance between historically accurate fact-telling, and fictional made-up story-telling (he aimed for “… an imaginative re-creation of a situation experienced by real people …”); and how he chose whose story to tell (three stories, two voices: Connie and Dougie each tell their story in the first person, while William, whose character Owen describes as ‘Shakespearean’ in nature, is seen through their eyes).

There were three readings, a heap of audience questions, and so so much more discussed than I can possibly do justice to here. I must confess I’d have liked it to be a bit more on the gossipy side – it wasn’t till right at the end that one lady said, “I’m going to be brave and ask about the scandal”, and I wanted to hug her … But the session was great: warm, inclusive and a fascinating insight into not only one of our best-known families and landmarks, but also the writing process itself.

Coming up soon for the Writers Festival, Setting the Stage for Murder, with Tess Gerritsen and John Hart, and What’s for Pudding, an afternoon tea discussion with Alexa Johnston and Kate Fraser.  Go now. Buy tickets.  Enjoy.

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