Weldon, F (2010) Kehua! Corvus, London. ISBN 9781848874596

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Your writer, in conjuring this tale of murder, adultery, incest, ghosts, redemption and remorse, takes you first to a daffodil-filled garden in Highgate, North London, where, just outside the kitchen window, something startling shimmers on the very edges of perception. Fluttering and chattering, these are our kehua - a whole multiplying flock of Maori spirits (all will be explained) goaded into wakefulness by the conversation within. Scarlet - a long-legged, skinny young woman of the new world order - has announced to Beverley - her aged grandmother - that she intends to leave home and husband for the glamorous actor, Jackson Wright - he of the vampire films. Beverley may be well on her way to her ninth decade, but she's not beyond using this intelligence to stir up a little trouble. And neither are the kehua outside the window. The sins and traumas of the past haunt us all. Call them hungry ghosts, grateful dead, dybbuks, kelpies, poltergeists, furies or kehua, we carry them with us - across continents, oceans, decades and generations. Quite how they became attached to a three-year-old white girl is the origin of your writer's tale. Suffice to say that murder is at the root of it all, that Beverley and her female bloodline carry a weighty spiritual burden and that this is the story of how they learn to live with their ghosts, or maybe how their ghosts learn to live with them -

Item Type: Book

Older cultures live with the spirits of the past, see the dead all around and call on the witch doctor or the shaman to cure neuroses. Perhaps we of the present merely use a different terminology, using therapists to recreate the past, digging up family traumas in the hope of curing depressions and compulsions? Does not what once happened in family or tribe, in the form of our inherited genes, continue to dictate how we as individuals act, think and feel? It certainly seemed a theme worth investigating. So this I set out to do, in fictional form, paring away the impossible, leaving the improbable. I supposed that the spirits of the Maori dead, the Kehua of the title, (now globalised) turned up in modern Highgate, in pursuit of a New Zealand family that they, like the Furies, pursued.

Literal readers are all too quick to dismiss as nonsense anything smacking of the paranormal, even though one uses it as a metaphor. I would have to work hard to convince the reader: it would have to a pill very well sugared. On the first line I offered them incest, murder, adultery, remorse and redemption, but followed quickly by an account of the life cycle of the daffodil, so they knew what they were in for.

I decided, albeit not without misgivings, to achieve my more serious purpose by using a meta-fictional approach; examining the proposition by using myself as a writer, if increasingly haunted and therefore increasingly fictionalised, to provide a commentary on the novel as it went along. The three strands had to converge: the Kehua’s narrative, the family’s narrative, the writer’s instructive narrative- no small task. It did work – the novel was well reviewed and described in New Zealand as part of a new genre, ‘Kiwi Gothic’.

Keywords: New Zealanders — England — London — Fiction. Muswell Hill (London, England) — Fiction.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2013 12:35
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:10
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