Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Review: The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera


"Man might carve his mark on the earth but unless he's vigilant, Nature will take it all back"

A slightly surreal story about a young Maori girl, some whales and the battle between the modern and ancient traditions of her culture all in just over 150 pages. I feel like I should have enjoyed this more than I did, it was written well and there were quite a few quotes I picked out as I read that I thought were beautiful, it just didn't grab me.

I'll start with the positive, I really enjoyed reading about the culture and mythology in this book, I know nothing about Maori culture so that was nice. That being said I think the inclusion of so much of the language might by why I struggled a bit, my European brain couldn't wrap itself around the pronunciation and I did spend a lot of time rereading sections with no idea if I was correct or murdering the language horribly. In the end I just skipped those parts.

I liked the narrator Rawiri, he was a nice bridge between the elders and Kahu herself, always understanding of both sides. I did find it a bit strange that a significant section was given over to his travels abroad, it felt a bit like that should have been in a separate book and could have been cut without affecting the story at all.

Overall I think that this is perhaps too short a story for me to grasp the context properly and this did affect my enjoyment. It wouldn't put me off reading more by Witi Ihimaera but I won't be rushing back.

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