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I felt myself to be in skilled and steady hands with Laurence’s (6th or 7th?) novel. Boden Black is a young butcher who spends a formative few summer days in 1955 helping build a hut high on the flanks of Aoraki-Mt Cook. His consciousness is pierced by  events — the relentless narration by a conscientious objector of his imprisonment during WW2 (its cause and consequences) and Boden’s own climb of the mountain with Edmund Hilary and guide Harry Ayres. Poetry is also at work in him.

Boden broods, listens, writes poems (none of which, alas, we get to read), cuts meat, ponders and occasionally converses, and we witness over decades the gradual accretion of character and motive as he, without haste, processes his life — from his lonely, troubled Fairlie childhood, to a maturity in which he is making peace with his people and his past, and with his calling as a poet.

There’s restraint and a deep calm at the heart of The Hut Builder, which makes for quietly impressive reading.

 

 

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