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Today I’m reviewing The Pounamu Prophecy, the debut novel from New Zealand author Cindy Williams. It’s a sensitive and compelling look at part of New Zealand history.
A Compelling Debut
James and Helene are both too busy chasing their respective careers (as graphic designer and doctor, respectively) to have time for each other, and after five years, the spark has gone out of their marriage. Mere comes to stay, looking for a quiet place where she can write her memoir without interruption. Helene especially values Mere’s quiet advice, shared from a place of having come to terms with knowledge, suffering and forgiveness.
The Pounamu Prophecy is a split timeline story.
In the present, it’s the story of Brisbane couple James and Helene, their disintegrating marriage. And it’s the story of Mere, their visitor from New Zealand visitor, and the way Mere subtly encourages them to think with a different mindset. In the past, it’s Mere’s story, the story of a Ngati Whatua child growing up in Okahu Bay, Auckland, in the midst of the Maori land protests. It’s also the story of Mere working through her reactions to the age-old grievances.
I live in New Zealand.
I remember the Bastion Point protests. I was only a child and too young to understand what they were about—or how far back the grievances went. I’ve driven past Okahu Bay more times than I can remember. I’ve visited Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World (now Kelly Tarlton’s SeaLife Aquarium), which is built in the old sewage tanks mentioned in The Pounamu Prophecy.
I enjoyed that combination of familiarity and new information, and I thought The Pounamu Prophecy was an outstanding novel. I liked the characters (well, I liked Mere better than Helene or James, who both needed a good talking to). I liked the way the two stories were integrated.
I especially liked the sensitive way the novel brings out the Maori culture and the injustices of the time—a combination of greed and perhaps patriarchal thinking. The injustice is plain. It seems the New Zealand Government of the time had a lot in common with the biblical Laban.
Overall, The Pounamu Prophecy is an excellent story of rising above difficult situations, and learning to forgive what some might think can’t be forgiven.
You can read the introduction to The Pounamu Prophecy here: