A captivating historical adventure, Savarna Yang
11 May 2021
In Displaced by Cristina Sanders, Eloise Sansonnet must leave Cornwall with her family and immigrate to New Zealand. It is 1872. Her uncle who is already there has sold their farm, forcing them to leave. Matthew, her eldest brother, refuses to go but their abusive father drags him unconscious aboard the Balmoral (the ship that will take them).
On board, Eloise meets Lars, a Norwegian boy from below decks. She instantly connects with him even though he’s a peasant and can hardly speak her language (or so she thinks). But then Matthew goes missing and her family starts to fall apart. Only Eloise and her father knew he was in love with a girl back home and Eloise suspects he has tried to go back to England. But there is nothing she can do.
Then a fever goes around the ship and tragedy strikes again. Her other brothers Clem and Billy catch it and Clem dies. Billy is left blind. They arrive in New Zealand but they are no longer the family they used to be. They’d expected to be ‘colonial gentry’ but instead find themselves living in hardship. Their father leaves, saying he must go and meet their uncle. They are left in the care of the minister Mr Wix and his daughter Serenity who also travelled on the Balmoral.
Eloise feels the responsibility of looking after what’s left of her broken family; her mother’s mental health has completely deteriorated as well as her sister Martha’s and Billy is completely blind. Adding to that; before he left her father gave her the news that he had betrothed her to her cousin Cornelius, who has also decided to immigrate. She doesn’t know what to think. Cornelius is her last link to what was home – but at the same time she cannot help remembering Lars…
Continuing on in time, Serenity hears news of someone who might be Matthew: an English man who boarded the Høvding (which was the ship that arrived after theirs) in Cape Verde and asked to work passage to New Zealand. Apparently, his name was Matthew. But after the Høvding docked, the man went south with the Norwegian immigrants to the bush camps. So Eloise and Martha decide to go together and look for him in Te Whiti. The minister accompanies them for most of the way as he is going to his new parish but for the last leg they are on their own and from there the story really picks up the pace (I won’t say any more than that or I might spoil some surprises!)
Displaced by Cristina Sanders is a stirring and emotional story about first love and the pain and struggle of immigration. Her first young adult novel and the winner of the 2020 Storylines Tessa Duder Award, it had me completely engrossed the whole way through and I literally finished it in a couple of hours! I couldn’t stop reading. Sanders conveys the emotions of the characters so well – you totally empathise with them, especially towards the end. What stood out for me was the way the scenes are described. They are brilliantly written and really captivate the reader.
As the main character, Eloise is quite reserved and even prejudiced sometimes but I think this is because of the time the book is set in. She loves her family though, and no matter what happens, tries to stick by them. On the other hand, Lars is a shyer sort of person, but you get the feeling that underneath he’s really strong and has withstood a lot. I don’t think I related to either of them very much but they are both nice characters.
I liked this book a lot but found there were some unresolved storylines. However, the ending is really good anyway and I’d highly recommend Displaced to anyone who enjoys a novel with a bit of history, romance and adventure. It’s definitely a YA read so I’d say more for older teens (even though I’m only 12!)
- Savarna Yang is 12 years old (but she does turn 13 soon) and lives near Dunedin.