Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974
Sons for the Return Home
Sons for the Return Home
A Simple Style of writing and the successful command of everyday language, makes Albert Wendt's first novel easy to read and therefore easy to understand the variety of racial situations which he examines in a direct and straightforward way. In each page of his novel, Wendt rips away the covers of niceties and exposes the reader to the realities of conflicts between the Papalgi and Samoan; the Pakeha and Maori' the Samoan and the Maori; as well as that between the N.Z. Samoan and the Samoan-Samoan. With skilled poetic sensitivity and a moving sense of honesty and realism, which can only be acquired through personal experience, Wendt sets out to completely rubbish the fantasy of N.Z. being a harmonious multi-racial society.
Wendt does not seek to give a pretty picture of N.Z. society. What he reveals in his novel is the views that many Samoan people have of N.Z. society. His book is an expression of what it is like to live on the other side of the fence: what is what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land surrounded by different cultural values. His book is a revealation of the social problems that the Polynesian people suffer in a society which tries to ignore their separate identity. His book is an honest exposition and view of N.Z. society from the other side of the fence.
Although the basic plot of the novel deals with the love between a man and a woman, the undercurrents of racial conflict and the struggle to retain one's separate identity, as well as the blunt comments on the social problems that face the Samoan / and other Polynesian people, transform what would have been a dull typical story of boy-meets-girl, into a dynamic, honest and moving story of the 'fate' that befalls two people who fall in love but belong to different cultures.
Undertones of nostalgia—the grandfather-healer in Samoa, the mother's Samoan-ness; the yearning for the idealised homeland—run beneath a grimy crust of city, life which Wendt portrays in his novel. The hideous pictures of a persecuted alcoholic tramp in a rubbish dump, (childhood's wondrous magic city), the ruthless gang pack, sex games of one woman and many drunken men, the shooting of the beautiful, wild hawk makes Wendt's point of view both ruthless and uncompromising. Wendt's graphic honesty, and the pictorial craftsmanship of his novel will make you read until the finish.
'Sons for the Return Home' is a book that should be read by all New Zealanders who want to know what life is like on "the other side of the fence' . . . Buy, Borrow, or Pinch a copy . . . "Sons For The Return Home' is a must!
Na Te Morehu