Grace, Patricia. Tu. University of Hawaii Press, 2004.
Reason read: New Zealand was discovered in December
The novel Tu opens and closes with a letter. New Zealander Tu Hokowhitu-a-Tu owes an explanation to his niece and nephew, Rimini and Benedict. Sandwiched between the letters there are Tu’s journals interspersed with third person flashbacks. In his journals Tu tries to tackle the war in his own words. The war everyone is signing up for. World War II. In flashbacks we learn Big Brother Pita thought he should stay home to care for his family until the fighting pulls him in and seesm to be the only way out. Pita follows feisty Brother Rangi, already wild with battle. Left behind is little Te Hokowhitu-a-Tu. Too-young-to-go-to-war Tu, but there’s no place he would rather be. Maybe because of his brothers? He wants to be useful. He wants to get away. Through his journals he implies enlistment means freedom and despite being underage he signs up for the Maori Battalion.
When it is all said and done, and the war is over(sorry, accidental spoiler alert), there is a poignant moment when Tu asks himself who will he be now that the war is finished and there is no more fighting. Where is his place in life?
I found it interesting that all three brothers would want to go into battle after seeing what war did to their father. Coming back from World War I and wracked by post traumatic stress disorder, their father at times was a wild and raging man; given to fits of insanity and violence.
Interesting to note: New Zealand’s June had 31 days back in 1943.
A quote that got me, “…I’ve decided I’ll write only when there are enough words in my head to create a flow to paper through a warmed up pen” (p 23). How many times have I said that same thing? Another quote, “When you see a man fall you’re not sure whether or not it was your bullet or someone else’s that dropped him, so his death does not feel so real to you” (p 82). Two more: “Perhaps there’s an in-between state where ghosts walk in and out of you, or where you could be your own ghost coming and going” (p 180), and “Reading intrudes on thought and takes a man away from so much self-pity” (p 238).
Author fact: Grace is not Patricia’s given last name. But, that’s not the interesting fact. She was inspired to write Tu by her Maori father’s involvement in World War II. He went to fight for the very country that was trying to control his.
Book trivia: Tu won the Montana New Zealand Book Award.
Nancy said: “…beautifully written and depressing…” (p 125). I would have to agree.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kwikis Forever!: New Zealand” (p 125).