Monday, May 19, 2014

Mutuwhenua by Patricia Grace

Title: Mutuwhenua: The Moon Sleeps
Author: Patricia Grace
Publisher: Penguin (1978)
-not sure if Penguin was the original publisher

From the publisher:"This is the story of Ripeka, who leaves her extended family and its traditional lifestyle to marry Graeme, a Pakeha schoolteacher. In the strange world of the city, Ripeka discovers that she cannot make the break with her whanau and that the old ways are too strong. Patricia Grace s first novel is a powerful, moving story of contrasts – between light and darkness, old and new, young and old, and Maori and Pakeha."

I don't have much of a coherent set of thoughts to share on this one. I just really loved it so want to recommend it. This isn't my first Patricia Grace novel but it's certainly my favorite so far in terms of style and structure. I was so drawn in by the writing. It's absolutely gorgeous. You can roll the words and phrases around in your mind and just delight in them.

Ripeka/Linda is a very sheltered young woman who dreams of a life bigger than the one she has (a restlessness almost anyone can relate to). But she is also a young Maori woman struggling to reconcile her identity/heritage, as passed to her from her elders, with her daily experiences and desires. Grace's portrait of Ripeka's journey is immediately accessible and compelling.

I'm still conflicted on the ending though. And by "still" I mean I can't stop thinking about it or determine how I feel about it (that's feeling on a personal level and on a character level). Any details would be huge spoilers but I have hopes of finding another reader of this title for discussion. And you have to appreciate a book that can get in your head like that and not let you go.

On another note: I follow and participate in discussions about representation and equality in media (especially books cuz, you know, bookworm!!!!) and so was really struck by Ripeka's thoughts after an interaction with her boss and the books she reads (another bookworm! yay!).

...And [I] thought of the books I’d read. In the books I’d read there was only one thing that ever happened to us girls. We didn’t become famous or have interesting or extraordinary lives of our own, or even uninteresting and ordinary lives. We either got ourselves into what is known as ‘trouble’ or we lay about giving some bloke hot sex. And that was all. Nothing else. Except sometimes we did ridiculous things in Pakeha kitchens, like ringing the fire-alarm instead of the dinner-gong because we didn’t know the difference.
  And sometimes we were given the romantic treatment. Soft brown eyes, soft mellow voice – like soft in the eyes, soft in the voice, soft in the head. No one ever had speckled eyes like me or a voice that squeaked now and again and sometimes lost itself altogether. Or sang flat, bathed once a day, and wouldn’t touch beer. Mr Neilson often made me think of the books I’d read.

rating: 4 of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment