The bestselling novel Kāwai: For Such a Time as This by Monty Soutar feels like the story Matua Monty has been working toward telling his entire life. It aims for the loftiest mountain peak in a valiant attempt at the fabled Great New Zealand Novel, that to this reader, falls just short of greatness.
Kāwai is the first novel in a planned trilogy by Soutar, a respected historian. It's a hugely ambitious and largely successful work of historical fiction. Epic in scope, it spans upward of eight generations and three centuries, while remaining focused and deeply personal through a 1980 set framing device where the young author-surrogate seeks out the understanding of self that can only come from understanding those who came before you.
The book opens with a detailed family tree and an intimidating Dramatis Personae. I briefly worried they were a prelude to a dry recitation of dates, events, and a history robbed of vitality or life. But my concerns were baseless.
Link to article: On the Māori Cannibalism Novel (newsroom.co.nz)