Patricia Grace’s “Potiki” – Book Review

Potiki (Talanoa : Contemporary Pacific Literature)Potiki by Patricia Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read since it was an assigned reading for some of my friends in other English classes in high school. Once I started reading, I realised I had read the beginning before, though I don’t remember when.

It is written beautifully, with poetry woven intricately throughout. It makes great use of New Zealand as a character, and the symbols, traditions and natural surroundings that can be found in our small country. Many people feel, and sometimes I am among them, that Maori culture is too readily used as a cheap substitute for real symbolism and emotion, and for authentic cultural and spiritual settings. Potiki does not give me this feeling. It reads as authentic, real. It is not trying to be spiritual, it just is.

I have given this book 5 stars, even though I don’t think it necessarily deserves them all. I love the way it is written, but I do find the Christian references somewhat disturbing (mystic, prophetic son of Mary and Joseph conceived without Mary’s loss of innocence performs miracles, feeds the people and dies but is reborn). However, I enjoyed reading magic realism in a New Zealand novel and as I continue to explore New Zealand literature, I hope to find more like this.

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