10 March 2016

ARCBA Review: The Pounamu Prophecy by Cindy Williams

7 - 11 March
is introducing

(Rhiza Press, 1 October 2015)

Cindy Williams

About the Book:

Since she watched her village burn to the ground, Mere’s life has been anything but dull. Now as an older woman she has come to stay with Helene and James to finish writing her life story – a tale of injustice, revenge and reconciliation.
But Helene and James have their own problems. After five years together, their marriage has become dull, predictable, boring … and it starts to unravel. 
Weaving fiction with the traumatic history of the Ngati Whatua tribe of Auckland, The Pounamu Prophecy sweeps from the sultry heat of Australia to the verdant shores of New Zealand.

About the Author

Cindy Williams lives in Sydney with her husband and teenage son.
As a child growing up in a culturally rich part of New Zealand she enjoyed writing, not copious screeds, but short intense pieces that brought tears to her eyes and made people think. She marvelled at the power of words to inspire far beyond the intentions of the author.
Then she became a dietitian – all science and seriously researched facts. She completed a Master of Public Health and a Graduate Diploma in Communication and spent many years encouraging and inspiring people to live a healthy life.
She writes a nutrition blog – www.nutritionchic.com – and is working on her second novel, set in first century Israel. She teaches scripture in schools, and swim and cycles. She is also studying for a Diploma of Theology and trying to improve her abysmal French! 

My Review

James and Helene are both too busy chasing their respective careers (as graphic designer and doctor, respectively) to have time for each other, and after five years, the spark has gone out of their marriage. Mere comes to stay, looking for a quiet place where she can write her memoirs without interruption. Helene especially values Mere’s quiet advice, shared from a place of having come to terms with knowledge, suffering and forgiveness.

The Pounamu Prophecy is a split timeline story. In the present, it’s the story of Brisbane couple James and Helene, their disintegrating marriage, Mere, their visitor from New Zealand visitor, and the way Mere subtly encourages them to think with a different mindset. In the past, it’s Mere’s story, the story of a Ngati Whatua child growing up in Okahu Bay, Auckland, in the midst of the Maori land protests, and her reactions to the age-old grievances.

I live in New Zealand. I remember the Bastion Point protests, although I was only a child and too young to understand what they were about—or how far back the grievances went. I’ve driven past Okahu Bay more times than I can remember, and visited Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World (now Kelly Tarlton’s SeaLife Aquarium), which is built in the old sewage tanks mentioned in The Pounamu Prophecy.

I enjoyed that combination of familiarity and new information, and I thought The Pounamu Prophecy was an outstanding novel. I liked the characters (well, I liked Mere better than Helene or James, who both needed a good talking to). I liked the way the two stories were integrated.

I especially liked the sensitive way the novel brings out the Maori culture and the injustices of the time—a combination of greed and perhaps patriarchal thinking. The injustice is plain: it seems the New Zealand Government of the time had a lot in common with the biblical Laban. Overall, The Pounamu Prophecy is an excellent story of rising above difficult situations, and learning to forgive what some might think can’t be forgiven.



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