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Howling in the Wilderness by Diana Harris


Howling in the Wilderness is a historical novel that follows the story of Henry and Marianne Williams, early missionaries to New Zealand who first arrived in Aotearoa in 1823.


They were incredibly brave in choosing to come to New Zealand at that time, a place hostile and dangerous, especially as they had a young family. But they are full of optimism about being able to share the Gospel with the Māori people, committed to introducing peace rather than utu to the local people.


But Hongi Hika and other Māori were in no mood for these new concepts about peace and forgiveness after being brought up in a culture of revenge. And even the white settlers aren’t keen on having missionaries in their midst when there were deals to be done and land to claim.


The opening chapter captures the dangerous time the novel is set in with Henry keeping outwardly calm but inwardly panicking while one of the chiefs is swinging a long spear directly at him. All this happens while his wife and young children watch the scene from their window in horror.


Later in the book, Henry is called on to translate The Treaty of Waitangi at incredibly short notice from English to Māori, and the novel writes about this historical time from the missionaries’ point of view, bringing a new dimension to the signing of the Treaty.


Howling in the Wilderness is a superb read, bringing to life Henry and Marianne’s lives, as well as many other historical figures of the time. This is a must-read for anyone interested in New Zealand history. The author spent almost a decade researching and writing, and she’s created a novel that is an engaging and thought-provoking read.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Mary Egan Publishing

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