Harbouring is being rolled out now and should be available everywhere by 5th April.
Harbouring is in some ways similar and in others different from my earlier work. It is historical and set in Wellington – my home town – between 1839 and 1844. This is earlier than I have explored or tried to imagine before.
Though plenty has been written by historians about this time and place, featuring the Wakefields, the NZ Company, Te Rauparaha and so on, I have chosen to write about people, both settlers and Māori, who have made the journey out of desperation. My three main characters are Huw and Martha Pengellin, whose situation in Wales is dire, and Hineroa, whose tribe has been beaten and enslaved by migrating Ngāti Toa from Taranaki. Riots and poverty in Wales and tribal battles on the Kāpiti Coast have brought my fictional characters to Port Nicholson or Whanganui a Tara (later Wellington), where negotiations between wealthy would-be land-purchasers and tribal chiefs are background noise against their daily struggle to survive.
This is a crucial and controversial time in Aotearoa’s history: the first mass arrivals of white settlers. I hope readers will find it interesting (and of course entertaining since it is a novel) to see events through the eyes of those regarded back then as at the bottom of the heap. Hineroa is fiercely intelligent, critical of what is going on, yet vulnerable. It has been a challenge – which I have somewhat nervously embraced – to write in her voice (and I acknowledge Māori curator and historian Paul Diamond for his positive feedback on the manuscript). Huw is a dreamer and wanderer; Martha the practical homemaker who blossoms in this new environment. I usually have a large canvas of characters so of course there are others: children and the fanatical bully Gareth among them. The Welsh connection is quite strong.
Place is always important in my novels. Five generations of my whanau have lived or still live in Wellington. My home of nearly fifty years looks down on Wellington harbour. So I had to let this beautiful and significant place take centre stage for at least one of my books. And our bach at Paekākāriki looks out on Kāpiti Island where some of the action takes place!
I hope you will enjoy – and perhaps learn something new – from Harbouring.