Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Book Review : The Aroha Pendant by Marlene Bennetts

The Aroha pendant : This story is set in the early 1920s.

"When Bernadette finds the letter and carved bone pendant amongst her dead mother's belongings, she is astonished to discover that the father she has never seen is an Arawa maori"

Bernadette or Bernie, as she calls herself, is the main character in this engaging story of how she sets of to search for her father, changes her name, cuts her beautiful curls off so she can pass herself off as a boy, (she figures it is safer that way) she has lots of adventures and meets some quirky (perhaps eccentric) characters along the way.

The story starts with Bernadette finding a letter and a carved bone pendant among her dead mothers personal effects. She has been living most of her life, in a quiet backwater near Westport with her Aunty May and Uncle Fred at their guesthouse, never knowing who her father is, or where he is.

Bernadette is now 13 yrs old and has just discovered what her Aunt would never tell her, her father's name, Hemi Waru, and possibly where he might be living, up north in Rotorua.   Getting to Rotorua is harder than it sounds, 1920s New Zealand is filled all manner of dangers. Travelling by horse and cart, old lorries, and meeting lots of men just back from the war and out of work, and then there's the problem of getting on a ferry to cross over to the North Island!    But Bernie is determined to get to Rotorua, lots of 'kind' people help her (him!) and finally she arrives in Rotorua and "Yak, whats that smell!" her kind driver drops her off at Mrs Emery's where she is welcomed without question.

 So... now what to do? She has heard her father used to work in a mill, but which one? Mamaku seems like a good place to start, Mr Emery says he knows of a man called Hemi Waru who works at the mill, and is happy to arrange for her to go up there. But alas this Hemi Waru is pakeha, not Maori and Bernie knows her dad is an Arawa Maori, so it's back to Mrs Emery's.  While there Mrs Emery encourages her to go to Whakarewarewa and meet Guide Rangi, this seems like a good idea, until standing next to Pohutu Geyser, it starts to 'play' giving her quite a fright!, but she really liked Guide Rangi.

Finally she has another lead to follow, which takes her to Lake Rotoehu where there is another mill.
Here she meets a man called "Digger" who takes her pig hunting! it is a day or two later that she discovers he is her father and introduces herself (or rather himself, bit too soon to admit she's a girl!),
much celebration ensues until a very angry Aunty May turns up looking for her! Aue! but all's well eventually and Bernadette decides to stay with her father and his people.

A copy of this book is held in the Don Stafford Room, Heritage Collection.

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