They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread when I first saw The Pounamu Prophecy. While the landscape was instantly recognizable to me as a New Zealander, the ghostly eyes superimposed in to the sky gave the book a cheesy romance feel. Fortunately, the saying rang true. Beneath the cover, The Pounamu Prophecy is a brilliant story.
Since she watched her village burn to the ground, Mere’s life has been anything but dull. Now as an older woman she goes to stay with Helene and James to finish writing her story – a tale of injustice, revenge and reconciliation. But Helene and James have their own issues. After five years together, their marriage is dull, predictable and boring. Slowly, their lives start to unravel.
Cindy Williams, who grew up in New Zealand but now calls Australia home, has done a fantastic job in weaving fiction with the traumatic history of Ngati Whatua. The history of Bastion Point, in Auckland, and the peaceful occupation in the 1970s forms the heart of the story. Williams has researched the history meticulously, pulling together history and fiction with ease.
Haare Williams, a broadcaster, artist and cultural advisor, has said the book will “add to the fund of knowledge of a Maori struggle” which will go a “long way to help New Zealanders dip a little deeper into the social and spiritual wells of this land”. Indeed it will, but it does so in a gentle manner – never laying blame or forcing guilt on to the reader.
Mere is the real star of the story. She will resonate with everyone – a kind, old kuia with a big heart. Helene and James, while main characters, play second fiddle to the grandmother who moves everybody she meets. I was moved to tears when her fate is revealed and Williams does a fantastic service to the traditions that follow.
It is a relatively easy read, one that can be knocked off in a few days. However, it will make you think and reflect on our bicultural nation and our history. It’s also a deeply spiritual and moving story, which fits in well with the open ending.
Williams, a dietician, is working on her second novel now. I can’t wait to see what it involves and to see how she evolves as a writer. The Pounamu Prophecy is a stand out novel that should grace the bookshelf of every New Zealander.