11 March, 2016

King Rich by Joe Bennett

A first in two ways:
the debut novel of Joe Bennett, much loved New Zealand non fiction writer, who has on five occasions been voted New Zealand columnist of the year; also possibly the first work of fiction based on the Christchurch earthquakes of 2011. From its ruins Bennett has created literature, as an insider who bore witness to the devastation that occurred. 

In the aftermath of the quake, “Rich” a crippled alcoholic retreats into the deserted Grand Chancellor hotel, set for demolition, in the city’s CBD. Here he holes up with the companion dog, he calls Friday, sleeping in different rooms and sustaining himself with the plentiful booze, snacks from the bar and at times food that is slowly perishing in the kitchens.  

Meanwhile, 30 year old Annie, living in England at the time, hears of the disaster and sets out to New Zealand to try and find the father from whom she has been estranged for 20 years. It soon becomes obvious that “Rich” aka Richard Hugh Jones is Annie’s dad. And while Rich’s mission is to stay undetected, Annie’s is to find him. 

The book switches easily between the two characters and along the way, in this race against time, Annie finds clues about her father and the person he was, in the form of people – his friends and acquaintances, significant places and her own memories.

Bennett’s trademark humour, his observations of human quirks and imperfections, his disdain for The Establishment are all very much present. Absorbed, I greedily turned the pages and thoroughly enjoyed his fresh, genuine and heartfelt writing. 

Are Annie and her father ever reunited? Read and find out.

Title: King Rich
Author: Joe Bennett

Reviewed by Suneeta N, Highland Park Library

Suneeta  particularly enjoys biographies, travel stories and reading authors from around the world. She loves a good discussion and believes that everybody has a story worth telling.

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