Cindy Williams’ The Pounamu Prophecy is an ambitious historical novel providing insight into the Ngati Whatua tribe of Auckland, New Zealand.
As a child of the Ngati Whatua tribe of Auckland, New Zealand, Mere watched her people crumble when their homes destroyed by a merciless white government hell bent on obtaining as much land as possible with little respect for its traditional owners and their culture.
The trauma of losing her home is something that has haunted Mere for many years. Now entering her twilight years, she is determined to share her story. Staying with a friend’s relatives in Australia whilst putting the final touches on her book, Mere finds herself thrown into the turmoil of a disintegrating marriage. Will her own experiences with loss and regret lead her new founds friends through this bumpy time, or is their relationship beyond saving?
I would consider myself something of a history buff and am a sucker for historical fiction. The Pounamu Prophecy fit in quite well with my literary tastes and as Maori history is something I’m not all that familiar with, I was intrigued by the promise of its tale. But, historical fiction writers, in my opinion, have a difficult task. How much does one presume the reader knows of the period about which they are reading? How does one convey the necessary facts without sounding like a university lecturer?
In this novel, Williams sets the tone just right. At no point did I feel that I was being bombarded with facts about a topic I was unfamiliar with, nor did I feel out of my depth when reading this novel which explores a culture I knew nothing of. Her writing is light and easy to read, despite the somewhat heaviness of the topic. It piqued my interest and upon closing the book, I was eager to find out more about the culture which featured so strongly in this novel, something which I think is a hallmark of great historical fiction.
Honestly, if I was to pick on one thing in this book, it would be the Australian characters, Helene and James. Whilst the Maori characters and their stories were engaging, so much so that I didn’t want their tale to end, Helene and James fell short of perfect for me. They were two-dimensional and somewhat unlikeable, content to throw away their marriage at the first sign of struggle and jump into bed with any old flame that might appear on the scene. For me it was a shame that so much of the book was spent on these somewhat undeserving characters.
Overall, this book is an interesting take on historical fiction. Though it does have its pitfalls, the highlights are enough for me to want to read more of Williams’ work. A delight for fans of historical or romance fiction.
The Pounamu Prophecy is published by Rhiza Press.