|Gather The Wind|
|By Daphne de Jong
(Harper Collins Publishers – New Zealand - 1999-04-07)
To order a copy visit, http://www.harpercollins.co.nz.
Reviewed by Frances Grattan
|ho is Daphne de Jong? She is one of New Zealands best-selling authors, with more than 20 million books sold worldwide. Along with Daphne de Jong, she also writes under the names Daphne Clair, Laurey Bright, Clarissa Garland, and Claire Lorel.
Gather the Wind is an epic historical novel full of adventure, with a hint of romance. The story setting is primarily in the uncharted shores of pre-colonial New Zealand, but it also spans from England to Canada to Australia.
Captain Joss becomes a whaler and sealer in order to escape a haunting, precarious childhood. His uncle barely tolerates his existence, and life as a clerk in the family business bores him. His destiny is decided when a misunderstanding with a neighbors daughter leads to a revealing family argument. When Joss discovers the truth of his heritage, he decides to quit the oppressive place hes always called home and head for adventure at sea.
Life, however, is no picnic and Joss is forced to grow up quickly. Yet despite the hard work involved, he is awe-struck by the glistening beauty and magnificence of the whales that are hunted, primarily for oil.
When back on land, Joss is introduced to women who possess a freer nature than which he is accustomed. Still nursing bruised feelings for his first love back in England, he sneers at the woman who choses to spend a night with him. He thinks she is too easy, common, and stupid. The next night, when he cant fight his craving her again, his anger and confusion deepen. Women, he decides, are not to be trusted or needed.
While sealing in the South Pacific, Joss encounters the indigenous people of New Zealand. The Maoris were notorious cannibals and one encountered war parties with extreme caution. Most sort out the white man for muskets and gunpowder, and freely traded women or freshly killed body parts in order to obtain them.
Joss and most of the crew are shocked, yet excited, by the native women. The Maori are a beautiful people with light chocolate-brown skin and thick, soft hair. The women dress only in short grass-skirts and, for men used to their women covered from neck to ankle, it is an eye-opener, to say the least.
On one of the trips, Joss meets a man destined to become one of his friends for life—Noah risks his life to save Joss, and in doing so, is crippled for life. It is an insight to Josss character that he does not think twice about his responsibility to this man.
Joss moves his way up the hierarchy at sea, and earns the experience he needs to form a partnership, which has him captaining his own ship. He settles at the East Cape of New Zealand in order to make a living whaling. To do so, he must live at peace with the local Maori, not always the easiest of tasks.
It is here that Joss meets the two women who will play a part in shaping his future. Hiria is a half-caste missionary-educated slave who is offered to Joss for purchase. He decides she is too beautiful and will only cause trouble amongst his men. When the trader informs him that, if she is returned to her owner, she will more than likely be killed—the meat of a young woman was considered a delicacy—Joss relents and gives her to one of his men. Despite this, the paths of Hiria and Joss are destined to cross again.
Tamar, Josss wife, is a more complex woman. At first, he takes her under his protection as an act of chivalry. Mistakenly believing her to be a fake, like most of the other women in his past, he treats her with cool politeness. Yet as they begin to forge a life together, he discovers his mistake.
Hiria and the part she plays in Josss life threaten to cast a shadow on his marriage. Is it possible for him to work through the feelings of betrayal and make a life for his family in this land, which is in the early stages of civilization?
Though it took me a while to get into the book, and the character of Captain Joss, when it suddenly hit me, I was hard-pressed to put it down, even in order to eat! If you would like to learn a little of the history of Aoteoroa—the land of the long white cloud, or New Zealand—and enjoy a story of adventure and romance, then I suggest you give this book a try.