Stephanie Johnson reviews The Forgotten Coast


Stephanie Johnson reviews The Forgotten Coast for the Academy of New Zealand Literature:

Family histories are having a moment in the sun. Charlotte Grimshaw’s The Mirror Book gave us an account of a privileged midlate twentieth century childhood amidst perceived neglect. Alexander McKinnon’s Come Back to Mona Vale records three generations of a wealthy Christchurch family and the damage done along the way. Both books are exquisitely written and told from expansive yet intimate viewpoints.

‘Richard Shaw takes a two-pronged approach to his account of another Pākehā family, this time in the Taranaki. First to arrive was Andrew Gilhooly, a farmer from County Limerick, Ireland, in 1874. He was tall for the era, almost six foot, and strongly built. The mostly Anglo Protestant officialdom had difficulty with his name, and Shaw’s attempts to trace the patriarch’s movements are occasionally made difficult by erroneous spelling. However, it seems certain that Gilhooly became part of the Armed Constabulary that helped build the military road between Okato and Opunake, a road that later enabled the invasion and sacking of Parihaka in 1881. The early part of the book details the appalling treatment of Māori in the Taranaki, not only the brute violence meted out by the colonial government, but also the convoluted red tape that bound their land into long, forever renewable leases.

‘He writes too of leading Māori of the time, Te Whiti, Tohu and Titokowaru, all of whom endured imprisonment, the rape of their women and the loss of their homes, farms and communities. All Pākehā, especially those of us whose families arrived that long ago, cannot read of Parihaka without nauseating guilt and remorse. Shaw feels particularly burdened by it, since he can track back to an ancestor who was actually involved. After the land grab, Gilhooly ended up in possession of a substantial farm and other blocks of land in the Taranaki, which set his family up for generations.’

Read the full review here.