Family tale displays author's rich talent

By Tanya Moir (Random House, RRP $37)

Tanya Moir insists that writing does not come easily to her. Good. She deserves no sympathy.

It would be hideously discouraging to working writers everywhere if a novel of this quality poured readily from her imaginings. Here's hoping that every word came like it was a tooth wrenched from her jaw.

Such a beautifully evocative storyteller is this Southland-raised writer that although her second novel swings through a ripe and frankly disreputable family history, the changes of time and perspective as she draws our attention up and down the family tree are seldom disorientating.

And if, for a moment, we might lose a sense of connectivity with the wider story, the vibrancy of each page still holds us until we recalibrate, which happens quickly enough.

Moir is a reliable guide whose words fair crackle with interest.

The story is one of a mother and daughter's discovery that their family history reveals a penchant for cruelty, typically expressed through scientific endeavour. Moir, however, is no fatalist and she entertainingly resists any notion that our family past establishes in us a DNA that determines our future.

Not that she preaches, either. Here is a story told for the fun of it by a writer who, on the evidence so far, is a rising talent and no mistake.