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Pattrick, Jenny
Writer's File

Jenny Pattrick

Wellington - Te Whanganui-a-Tara
Pattrick, Jenny
In brief
Jenny Pattrick is a fiction writer, widely known as a historical novelist. Pattrick is also a celebrated jeweller, and she plays an active role in the New Zealand arts community. Her first novel, The Denniston Rose, published in 2003 and its sequel, Heart of Coal, published a year later, are two of New Zealand’s biggest-selling novels. She has also written fiction for radio. Pattrick was the winner of the 2009 New Zealand Post Katherine Mansfield Prize. She has been awarded the OBE for services to the arts.


Pattrick, Jenny (1936- ) is a writer and jeweller.

Jenny Pattrick was born and raised in Wellington. She trained and worked as a teacher before becoming a mother in 1963. In 1969 Pattrick began her career as a jeweller. Her work has been exhibited in New Zealand and internationally, and featured on the book jacket of her second novel, Heart of Coal (Black Swan, 2004).

Pattrick has written intermittently since 1959, but has been a full-time writer since 1993. She has written fiction for print and radio. With her musician husband, Laughton Pattrick, she has written several songs and musical shows for children.

Her songbooks include Songs for Seasons (Seaview Press, 2000), On our Street (Seaview, 2001) and The Farm at the End of the Road (Seaview, 2002).

Today, Pattrick is best-known as a historical novelist. Her first novel, The Denniston Rose (Black Swan, 2003) and its sequel, Heart of Coal (Black Swan, 2004) are two of New Zealand’s biggest-selling novels. They are set on an isolated coal-mining plateau, Denniston, once the primary coal producer for New Zealand, now a ghost town. The Illustrated Denniston Rose and Heart of Coal (2006) contain full text plus over 200 photographs and other images, both archival and contemporary, illustrating places and events described in the novels.

Reviewer Mike Crean of The Christchurch Press in 2003 said that ‘Pattrick writes with the assuredness of a veteran. She creates an authentic stage for a cast of characters who interact in ways that always ring true’.

In 2005 Pattrick published Catching the Current (Black Swan). Her huge success is no doubt due to her ability to write accessible historical fiction that reviewer Nicola Salmond describes it as ‘a romping good yarn’. A spin-off from the Denniston novels, following the lives of Enok/Conrad, a Faroese song-maker who immigrates to New Zealand, and of Anahuia, a half-Maori half-Scandinavian woman. War, land, and belonging are themes.

Pattrick has long been active in the arts community and has served as President of the Crafts Council of New Zealand (dissolved in 1992). She has chaired the Arts Council of New Zealand and has served on the boards of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, the New Zealand School of Dance and the New Zealand Festival of the Arts’ New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Committee.

In Touch with Grace (Random House, 2006) is a contemporary novel, written in prose and letters, about Grace, an independent octogenarian, her love affair with Max and the various complications his family bring into her life. The elderly members of the bowls club always have an opinion.

Pattrick's 2008 novel, Landings (Black Swan), is set on the Whanganui River in 1907/08. This was the height of the beautiful river's tourist fame. The novel concerns various groups who live on the river and are involved in farming, sawmilling, saving souls and the central, connecting steam-boat service. A collision between timber-logs floated down-river and a river-steamer full of tourists struggling up-river, results in a terrible accident to Bridie McPhee, daughter of a narrow-minded saw miller. The accident has repercussions for all involved. Guilt, recriminations, love and death follow.

Jenny Pattrick was awarded the 2009 NZ Post Mansfield Prize, now know as the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship.

Her novel Inheritance was published by Random House in 2010. This original new novel is a meditation on the tropical beauty and exuberance of Samoa in the 1960s and the dark violence arising from the conflict between truthfulness and love. It was mostly written during Pattrick's fellowship. David Hill reviewed the book and said 'It was widely noted (and sometimes sniffed at) that Pattrick was the first "popular" writer to be awarded the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship. Inheritance indicates that she was an excellent choice' (New Zealand Herald, 2010).

In 2012 Pattrick published the novel, Skylark (Random House NZ). Louise O'Brien reviewed it in The Listener, writing 'That’s a lot of direction for the reader, who is encouraged to boo and hiss, cheer and applaud, in the best theatrical tradition. Skylark puts on a good show and is fast-moving and flamboyant, but it flourishes more glamour than depth.'

In 2014 Pattrick released Heartland (Random House NZ). Set in a small New Zealand ski town, Heartland was described by Gillian Torckler for NZ Booklovers as 'a masterful story of community and kinship.'

Pattrick's 2017 novel Leap of Faith was published by Penguin Random House NZ, a "vivid novel about ingenuity and hard slog, crooks and dreamers, bootleggers and love."