Author(s): Joan Norlev Taylor
In 1837, on remote St Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, Frenchman François Lelièvre searches for the legendary willow tree beside Napoleon’s grave. A tree in which he believes Napoleon’s spirit is still alive, inspiring the noble ideals of the French Revolution – liberty, equality and brotherhood.
With cuttings from Napoleon’s willow in his care, François journeys to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular in New Zealand aboard a whaling ship, and plants these in this new land during a time of conflict, as the French and British compete to be the first to colonise this newly-discovered part of the country.
Around the same time, Marianne a young schoolteacher from England, sets out on a turbulent path via the new British colonies of Sydney in New South Wales and Russell in the Bay of Islands, that leads her to the same place, looking for her own sense of liberty.
They both encounter and befriend a well-travelled and respected Maori man from Banks Peninsular, Manako-uri, who is facing his own difficulties and challenges as the newcomers plant their hopes and dreams in his ancestral land.
Based on real events and people from our colonial past, this impeccably-researched and dramatic adult fiction follows the lives of the main characters as they become entwined together in an intense story of adventure, love and loss. This novel explores not only an important chapter in New Zealand’s history, but also the deep and sanguine forces that drove the early settlers and pioneers to leave safe and familiar Europe to etch new lives for themselves in the far-away, unknown and often-treacherous corners of the world.