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The Matriarch (The Mahana Family #1)

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  149 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
The matriarch is a woman of intelligence, wit, beauty and ruthlessness, and has become a mythical figure through her fight to repossess the land and sustain her people against the ravages wrought by the Pakeha. Priestess of the Ringatu faith, she has been virtually a law unto herself. In his search for the truth behind the legends surrounding the matriarch, his grandmother ...more
Paperback, 456 pages
Published 1999 by Reed Books (first published 1988)
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Nancy Lewis
This book is really dense in New Zealand history & culture. I fear that I missed a lot of the references in the story because I don't have the background that a New Zealand reader might have. All those Maori names sound so similar! But it seems that the book might be autobiographical, with a little magical realism thrown in - a fanciful view of a powerful woman who was an important role model to her grandson.
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Connections upon connection evolve and change,
Trish Moeke
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this story xx
Renee Jones
Apr 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Made me cry! In a good way.
Alastair Crawford
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
The story of the central character is only a thin thread amongst the potted histories, genealogies, pre-histories, family histories and political intrigues that this wide-ranging book covers. New characters get introduced nearly at the end of the book, the reader has to wait while one scene is freeze-framed for the next 50 pages, several times, and the story jumps elsewhere. One hand, it's quite fun to read a book that seems like the notes for a book (not unlike the polyvocal A Brief History of ...more
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this back in 1989, and was totally impressed by it, and its use of all manner of devices to tell its story. To quote from my journal of the time:
There are lyrical mythical passages, and passages from the past, where the narrator talks of himself as a child but in the third person; there is a strange section where we see the action not only from the point of view of this child but also from that of a pakeha journalist; there are other sections that read as quite normal modern straightforwar
Jasmin Cheng
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's impossible to read The Matriarch as a work of fiction when its foundations are so solidly constructed in history. As a new immigrant to New Zealand, Witi Ihimaera has changed the way I see this country, its history and its social dynamics. After reading it, I went to the Te Papa museum in Wellington, and revisited the Maori exhibit on the 4th floor, and saw everything anew. The Matriarch allows outsiders to experience the provocative nature of Maori mythology, the long struggle of being a c ...more
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favourite books, I think to some extent because the enigmatic matriarch, Artemis Riripeti Mahana, reminds me so much of my own nana Naina.

The Matriarch has been described as one of Ihimaera's most political and aggressive novels; it certainly provides strong comment on the ongoing struggle between notions of cultural identity and Maori sovereignty on the one hand, and success/survival in a Pakeha world on the other. I also loved Ihimaera's follow-up to this, The Dream Swimmer
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Maori culture
Shelves: fiction-novels
What I really enjoyed about this novel is that its storyline feels very authentic. It might be autobiographical with some fictional, more mystical elements. Especially towards the end the story really speeds up and becomes more and more mysterious. There are some hard to get through passages, though, mostly those containing historical background information. Those passages are crucial, though, especially for a reader lacking a New Zealand background.
Sep 22, 2009 added it
The first. The original. The best.
Bc Beats
Nov 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very powerful and an important work of NZ fiction.
Aroha Welsh
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book from what I can remember, one of my faves of Witi Ihimaera.
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Witi Ihimaera is a novelist and short story writer from New Zealand, perhaps the best-known Māori writer today. He is internationally famous for The Whale Rider.

Ihimaera lives in New Zealand and is of Māori descent and Anglo-Saxon descent through his father, Tom. He attended Church College of New Zealand in Temple View, Hamilton, New Zealand. He was the first Māori writer to publish both a novel a
More about Witi Ihimaera

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“All truth is fiction, really, for the teller tells it as he sees it, and it might be different from some other teller.” 5 likes
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