A story told to author Maxine Alterio several years ago,
involving an incident on board the troop ship
Marquette in October 1915, was the inspiration behind
Lives We Leave Behind - her third fictional novel.
Alterio, who is speaking at Dorothy Brown's Cinema tomorrow
about the book, said the conversation with the nurse
historian about the experience of those on board the
Marquette had stayed with her.
As the ship steamed from Port Said in Egypt across the Aegean
Sea to Salonika in Greece almost 100 years ago, its French
escort left once land was in sight. Soon after, a torpedo
from a German U-boat struck the Marquette, killing 167
people, including 10 of the 36 New Zealand nurses on board.
''The plight of these nurses and the survivors stayed with
me. Eventually I created two fictional nurses, Addie
Harrington from Riverton and Meg Dutton from Tuatapere,
assigned them to New Zealand's No 1 Stationary Hospital -
somewhat of a misnomer because it was frequently on the move
- and wrote about their wartime experiences in Egypt and
Alterio, originally from Southland, said she visited Gemstone
Beach in Southland and selected stones to represent the main
characters, to help develop them.
''Addie's stone is dark green with a reflective sheen,
whereas Meg's stone has gold hues and a quirky texture. The
stone I picked up for British surgeon Wallace Madison, with
whom Meg has an intense affair, is heart-shaped with an
irregular fracture through the middle.
''I wrote the novel with these stones sitting on my desk.''
Alterio visited the Hocken Collections in Dunedin and the
Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington and ''trawled
through'' letters from soldiers and nurses, newspapers from
the era, and Kai Tiaki - a nursing journal.
The resulting book was about risk and consequence, love and
friendship and loss and resilience, Alterio said.
Alterio will be speaking at Dorothy Brown's from 11am
Entry is free, however, bookings are encouraged.