Celebrating literature from the Pacific Islands.
Introducing world stories with mana.
Reviewing stories related to all things "island", including village life, colonialism, sea-faring, myths and legends.
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.
This book is not nice. It's vicious, confronting and brutal. I cringed my way through the abuse and hopelessness that the characters endure, trapped as they are in this depiction of gang culture and domestic violence. I finished the story totally drained and in awe of Duff's work. It is simply one of the best books I've ever read. Which is weird because I hate violence and I would never even try to watch the film version because I would be hiding behind a cushion the whole time.
Once Were Warriors is the story of an abusive husband and father Jake Heke and how his family falls apart under the stresses his violence and drunkeness cause. The characters are so real, so vital and so well drawn that you get totally sucked in to their vortex of poverty and alcoholism. It is a sad, disturbing read and makes you so angry for the women and children stuck in this situation. Did I mention this was about a Maori family? It could be about a family anywhere, but the Maori setting gives the title. These people, they once were warriors, in control of their land and their destinies. Now they are floundering in poverty, crime and hopelessness. It's powerful stuff.
Once Were Warriors (1991 UQP)
This is not a book I'd recommend for teenagers but it is definately a book I'd recommend to budding writers. Duff has broken every rule here to produce a voice that is raw and authentic and a style that must have had the editors squirming. If you don't like swearing in books, then steer clear. Same if you like correct spelling. If you cherish good punctuation with properly set out paragraphs and clearly defined speech, give this one a miss.
However, if you are a serious student of engaging writing, of how to carve an unforgettable voice from the page, then this is one book you just can't ignore, no matter how disturbing the content is.