The Denniston Rose, by Jenny Pattrick
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The bleak coal-mining settlement of Denniston, isolated high on a plateau above New Zealand's West Coast, is a place that makes or breaks those who live there. At the time of this novel - the1880s - the only way to reach the makeshift collection of huts, tents and saloons is to climb aboard an empty coal-wagon to be hauled 2000 feet up the terrifyingly steep Incline - the cable-haulage system that brings the coal down to the railway line. All sorts arrive here to work the mines and bring down the coal: ex-goldminers down on their luck; others running from the law or from a woman or worse. They work alongside recruited English miners, solid and skilled, who scorn these disorganised misfits and want them off the Hill. Into this chaotic community come five-year-old Rose and her mother, riding up the Incline, at night, during a storm. No one knows what has driven them there, but most agree the mother must be desperate to choose Denniston; worse, to choose that drunkard, Jimmy Cork, as bedfellow. The mother has her reasons and her plans, which she tells no one. The indomitable Rose is left to fend for herself, struggling to secure a place in this tough and often aggressive community. The Denniston Rose is about isolation and survival. It is the story of a spirited child, who, in appalling conditions, remains a survivor.
Jenny Pattrick is a writer who has written fiction and commentary for radio as well as songs and musical shows for children. She is the author of Grace Notes and Heart of Coal.