Mangakino University Press,
Reviewed by Trevor Agnew
Ted Dawe’s gritty first novel, Thunder Road (2003) contained a lively secondary character, Devon Te Arepa Santos, who was proud of his Spanish ancestry but denied his Maori heritage. I was very pleased that the award-winning prequel Into the River (2012) gave us a vivid introduction to Devon’s early history. It also brought a strange notoriety when, after three years of circulation, Into the River was for several months banned from being sold, displayed or distributed. Luckily an exemption for “educational purposes,” meant I was able to read from my plain-wrapped copy at several book-lovers’ gatherings, without facing a $10,000 fine. Page 93 has Devon, resentful of his elite boarding school where “Maori things are sneered at,” finding a moment of enlightenment in a Latin class. Hannibal and the Carthaginians are “defiant in the face of impossible odds…It all made sense. They were the Maori.”
Into the World begins at the moment when Into the River ended, with Devon escaping his school, echoing his Spanish ancestor’s cry of ‘Freedom.” At first Devon’s new world doesn’t offer much freedom to a young rebel. Unwilling to return home to Whareiti, Devon lives in a shed and helps his dodgy friend Mitch carry out equally dodgy car repossessions. There is excitement but no scope for Devon to re-invent himself. Inevitably a combination of gang influences, drugs and alcohol leads to Devon losing his cherished freedom. Fortunately prison also gives him a chance to consider his future. A second chance comes when he is offered an early release programme which will let him train in journalism, while living in a hostel run by the inspirational Pita.
Finally shunning the easy options, Devon makes good use of his intelligence and drive. He really seems to have a chance and he even finds love but his future hangs in the balance when the scheme is cancelled because others lack loyalty. The gripping final section shows Devon, defiant in the face of impossible odds, using his wits and battling to make his freedom a reality.
A promised third volume will reveal whether Devon can fulfil a tohunga’s prophecy, “This boy will make a rain that will drench us all.”
Note: This review appeared in Fairfax newspapers in May 2016
Publishing DetailsInto the World (2016) Ted Dawe,
Mangakino University Press, NZ$25
ISBN 978 0 473 34880 9