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Homegrown Books: Auē

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Tina Shaw recommends Auē by Becky Manawatu - Mākaro Press, 2019

Becky Manawatu is of Ngāi Tahu descent and lives in Waimangaroa with her husband and two children.  She is a reporter for The News in Westport.


Many years ago, people used to talk about “The Great New Zealand Novel” … was there such a thing? Which novel might it be? It’s a term I haven’t heard for a long time, but this novel brought it to mind. Auē could well be such a mythical beast.

The novel opens with an anonymous voice which will come to revisit the narrative: I am drowned. This voice in many ways grounds the novel, bringing us back to its essence – family, mistakes and tragedy in the past, hope for the future.The story is told from the points of view of a young boy who has been left with his aunt and violent uncle, his teenage brother in Wellington, and couple known as Jade and Toko – she has escaped from gang life. Family connections weave through the narrative.

The story is refreshingly set around Kaikoura, an area that hasn’t featured in many previous New Zealand novels. Auē is an astonishing debut. It is no surprise it won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction in the 2020 Ockham Book Awards.

Auē is available in print from NZ bookshops or from Mākaro Press.

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