The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
Moehau. E. H. Audley's two novels are also uneven, but redeemed by their elements of truth and delight. No Boots for Mr Moehau, 1963, is a loving and sensitive achievement, which some hackneyed conventions cannot destroy. Old Mohe Moehau and his wife Hema live at Matarangi, an out-of-the-way Maori settlement on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. There is fishing, marginal farming and forestry. Audley presents their way of life with humour, a poet's feeling for sands and sea, and an intimate knowledge of Maori behaviour. When Matarangi is threatened by land speculators, he contrives a fairy-tale plot which thwarts the villains just in page 118 time. It is an unforgettable little book. Audley's second novel, A New Gate for Mattie Dulivich, 1965, reiterates the theme, which recalls Finlayson's Tidal Creek, "in this duty to the soil lies our health and our strength". The Yugoslav name in the title led me to hope that Audley would give us a story from that pocket of New Zealand experience which has so far attracted only our short story writers (as in A. E. Batistich's fine collection An Olive Tree in Dalmatia, 1963.) But this thread of interest is soon lost in a very loose story fabric. Perhaps Audley's real metier is the sketch, which he brought off so well in Islands Float at Eleven, 1952.