Title: The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Author: Joan Stevens

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1966

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Sylvia Johnston

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Pioneer Makes Good—Recording

Pioneer Makes Good—Recording. Let us return to the "recording" novels of the 1860s and '70s. The motif of the Pioneer Family Making Good in the New Land recurs constantly; W. H. G. Kingston's Waihoura, 1872, will do for a further example. A middle-class family, the Pembertons, arrive in the North Island, and are appealed to by the local tribe to save their princess Waihoura: " 'Maori girl berry ill . . . Pakeha doctor make Waihoura well.' " They build her a hut, nurse her to health, go in for missionary prayers and teaching, set up a sheep farm; Lucy Pemberton and Waihoura strike up a friendship based partly on the exchange of information useful to the reader about birds, native life, and civilised beliefs. When the Maori Wars break out, the household is besieged and the women captured. In gratitude Waihoura rescues them, and all ends happily.

A later example, John Bell's In the Shadow of the Bush, 1899, is set in the Scandinavian settlements of Wellington Province. Round a love drama in the bush town of Bloomsbury move quite lifelike characters, Scottish farm hands and squatters. The bush is felled, there is a fire, there are male concerts and jollity at the pub. The simple material here is more successful than Kingston's melodrama, partly because Bell, coming nearly thirty years later, can take so much for granted as known to his public, and avoids both explanations and sensationalism. Somewhere between these two in type comes W. B. Churchward's Jim Peterkin's Daughter, 1892, an affair of settlers versus Hauhaus.