WelCom December 2023
Writer: Kate Mahony
Publisher: Cloud Ink Press
Themes of wrongdoing, repentance and reparation weave seamlessly through Wellington author Kate Mahony’s newly published novel, Secrets of the Land. The author, a former reporter/feature writer for Catholic newspapers, Zealandia, NZ Catholic and WelCom has set the story in Taranaki, the region where Kate grew up, on a farm in Hawera.
The inspiration for the novel was her great-grandmother’s brother who had come from Ireland to work the Otago gold fields in the 1860s and was then recruited to join the Taranaki Militia.
Kate Mahony says the character in the novel, however, is fictional as is his story. The novel spans three time periods, from 1864 when two young Irishmen join the British army in its fight against the Taranaki Māori, 1975 when a family arrive in Taranaki fleeing trouble in Ireland, to 2018 when a young Australian woman in Melbourne learns she has a grandfather in coastal Ōkato, who someone is trying to frighten off his land.
A major character is the land, says Kate.
‘What’s happened on the land, like a history that can’t disappear. The ramifications of things that have happened have come down through the time period. The land has a story of its own.’
For the book, which Kate describes as a mystery, she had to do a lot of research about the different eras both here and in Ireland. And about the New Zealand Wars.
‘I also went back and forth to many sources – from stories I heard in Ireland to Te Ao Māori experts and farmers I know.’
The novel draws parallels between the domination of Ireland by the English in the 19th century and colonialism in Taranaki during the time known as the New Zealand Wars. David Hill, in a review of the novel in the New Zealand Listener wrote, ‘Injustices past and present are acknowledged, and Mahony works hard to ensure the messages don’t clog the movement.’ The novel, he wrote, ‘is attentively researched and respectfully rendered’.
Secrets of the Land is available from most bookshops for $29.99 and from the publisher Cloud Ink Press: cloudink.co.nz