I bought Potiki because my daughter had given me Dogside Story and I wanted to read more of Patricia Grace's work. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed to start with, though fascinated by the progression from Potiki to Dogside Story. It's hard to go 'backwards' in time through an author's career because some of the craft learned through the years peels away and you are left with something more raw.
There was always enough of what I had loved about Dogside Story to keep pulling me forward into the next chapter and by the time I had finished, I had warmed to the book enormously. There are periods of exposition in Potiki that didn't sit well with me, not because of the uncomfortable content, but because it felt like it popped out from the rest of the story as something extra.
I am so glad my daughter introduced me to Patricia Grace. Read Potiki first, then make sure you go on to read Dogside Story.
In this fascinating book about Maori values, the author's musical style constantly reflects the changing tempo of the action and themes. In the first third of the book, conversations between the simple Mary and Granny Tamihana, the guardian of Maori traditions, echo and sound like chants; between Roimata and Hemi, a happily married couple, they resemble duets with complimentary themes. The scene in which Mary gives birth is a grand, complex chorus with the several family members singing over, around, and above each other as they fight for the narrative line. And all this music seems totally appropriate to the lives of these Maori characters living in harmony with the land and their ancestors. The middle third of the book changes, as Hemi, the father of the family, abruptly introduces the harsh notes of reality which occur when "the works" closes down, and he and his friends find themselves unemployed. In mournful tones he comments on the loss of tradition, language, and connection to the land which are coming about as education is imposed on their children by outside authorities, and people such as himself accept outside jobs. Developers are trying to buy their land to put up hotels, build seaside parks, and commercialize the lifestyle these Maori have enjoyed all their lives. The Maoris' fight for their land is accompanied by staccato, simple language, like the beat of a war drum, and the songs disappear from the language. It is hard to imagine that Patricia Grace did not deliberately tailor her prose style to her subject matter, yet this seems so completely natural--so totally without artifice--that one wonders if this harmony of words and subject might be the ultimate, triumphant example of the unity of story and life which she so vividly celebrates in this memorable and touching novel. MaryWhipple