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Merle

Merle

Potiki by Patricia Grace

Potiki - Patricia Grace

I enjoyed this book more than I expected. When other people claim a book is a great adventure story I find it too academic, and when others claim it's too academic, apparently I find it to be a warm, enjoyable family story. The first half of this novella develops the life of a family and their small community, before getting heavily into Maori land politics in the second half. That's a wise choice, keeping the story grounded in the characters rather than turning them into props for an op-ed piece.

Granted, this isn't the most accessible book for Western readers, but it clearly isn't supposed to be. The importance of storytelling in defining a community, and the characters' not seeing themselves reflected in the mainstream canon, is referenced several times; this book seems intended in part to remedy that lack. So there are some untranslated Maori phrases here, and there's a certain vagueness around some of the book's events, particularly at the end. But there's also a strong voice, and a certain rhythm to the language to which the reader quickly gets accustomed, which give the book a feeling of authenticity. While I wouldn't recommend it to the casual reader, this would be an excellent choice for anyone interested in the subject.