When I heard about Johanna Moran's The Wives of Henry Oades, I was very excited to become part of the book blog tour. I've been fascinated by New Zealand and had considered moving there when R decided to take a job there in 2005. The Wives of Henry Oades is partly a story about life in New Zealand in the 1800s and largely a story about love, loss, loyalty, and family. Spolier alert: This review reveals key points in the plot!
When Henry Oades accepts an accountancy post in New Zealand, his wife, Margaret, and their children follow him to exotic Wellington. But while Henry is an adventurer, Margaret is not. Their new home is rougher and more rustic than they expected—and a single night of tragedy shatters the family when the native Maori stage an uprising, kidnapping Margaret and her children.
For months, Henry scours the surrounding wilderness, until all hope is lost and his wife and children are presumed dead. Grief-stricken, he books passage to California. There he marries Nancy Foreland, a young widow with a new baby, and it seems they’ve both found happiness in the midst of their mourning—until Henry’s first wife and children show up, alive and having finally escaped captivity.
Narrated primarily by the two wives, and based on a real-life legal case, The Wives of Henry Oades is the riveting story of what happens when Henry, Margaret, and Nancy face persecution for bigamy. Exploring the intricacies of marriage, the construction of family, the changing world of the late 1800s, and the strength of two remarkable women, Johanna Moran turns this unusual family’s story into an unforgettable page-turning drama.
When I first began The Wives of Henry Oades, I was quick to sympathize with Margaret Oades. Her husband accepted a three year post in New Zealand for three years and she soon found herself leaving her family and life in England. Pregnant, unwell, and on a long sea voyage with her children, and the one friend that she makes dies on the long journey. Like many European wives, Margaret Oades has a difficulty adjusting to live in isolated Wellington, but she tries to make the best of her situation. Even when her husband signs up for another term, Margaret focuses on her family.
When an incident at Henry's workplace results in an unexpected Maori attack, it's Margaret and her children that suffer the most. Margaret and the children survive despite terrible odds. When the family is finally reunited, Margaret is shocked to discover that Henry has remarried a much younger lady. The families join together, shocking their Berkeley neighbors who file repeated charges of bigamy against Henry and the two Mrs. Oades.
While Mrs. Nancy Oades is much younger than Margaret, she proves understanding of Margaret's predicament. The friendship and respect that develops between Margaret and Nancy is one of the best parts of the story.
The Wives of Henry Oades doesn't read like non-fiction or a debut novel, Johanna Moran has written a gripping account of life for women in the 1800s.
ISBN-10: 034551095X - Paperback
Publisher: Ballantine Books; Original edition (February 9, 2010), 384 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours.
About the Author, courtesy of the publisher:
Johanna Moran comes from a long line of writers and lawyers. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, John. The Wives of Henry Oades is her first novel.
Learn more on Johanna Moran's website at http://johannamoran.com/MeetJohanna.html
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Thank you so much to Johanna Moran, Random House and TLC Book Tours for this review opportunity and for sponsoring the giveaway!