Peat starts out as Lynn Jenner's study of the Kapiti Expressway, built between 2013 and 2017 and passing, at its nearest point, about a kilometre from her own house. She decides to create a kind of archive of the construction of this so-called Road of National Significance. How did it come to be built? What is its character? Who will win and who will lose from its construction? What will be its impact on the local environment?
Jenner begins a quest to find a fellow writer with different sensibilities to help her think about the natural world the road traverses. New Zealand-born poet, editor, art collector and philanthropist Charles Brasch is her choice. Researching Brasch will be her refuge from the constant pile-driving and the sprawling concrete, and perhaps the poet will offer some ways of thinking that will help her understand contemporary events.
She reads and reflects on Brasch's memoir, some of his poems, his journals and his letters to the local paper. She thinks about Brasch in the context of his family and New Zealand in the 1940s–60s, and she reads local papers. She reads the official handouts about the road and listens to people in her local community when they talk about the road. From there Lynn Jenner carefully builds her unconventional text, layer upon layer, into an intelligent and beautifully refracted work that is haunting, fearless, and utterly compelling.
Lynn Jenner is a writer and teacher of writing. She lives on the Kapiti coast north of Wellington. Her first book, Dear Sweet Harry (AUP 2010) won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry. Her second book, Lost and Gone Away (AUP 2015), was shortlisted in the non- fiction category of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2016. Lynn has a PhD in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University.
'I can think of no other piece of New Zealand writing that is really like Jenner's seemingly casual, but carefully constructed engagement of one life with another, with its play of enduring values against the grain of immediate contemporary experience.'
– Vincent O'Sullivan
'... intriguing and thought provoking; a cornucopia of literary history, biography, memoir, politics, community activism and stimulating ideas. Such an unlikely juxtaposition of subjects shouldn't work but it does!'
– Mandy Hager
Paperback with map, 274 pp, ISBN 9781988531694, $35