23 July, 2017

Five Strings by Apirana Taylor

In the 19th century Russian classic Dead Souls, the protagonist Chichikov wittily declares, “Love us when we're nasty, since anyone would love us when we're nice”. The very same provocative message comes up in this newly published New Zealand novel by distinguished Maori author Apirana Taylor.

Taylor’s characters are anything but nice: homeless, alcohol and drug addicts, prostitutes and gang members scraping by on the fringes of society.

They are not all dead souls though. Mack and Puti are a young couple wandering the streets of Auckland. Drug and alcohol addicts, mentally unstable and prone to violence, they are hardly able to take care of themselves, but they do care for each other.

There is not much romance and sentiment in this relationship. She takes him home when he is wasted and stoned; when she shits herself in bed he cleans it up. Whether you call it love or not, it seems to be something that keeps them both alive.

How long will it last? Will either of them be redeemed?

The narrative time frame shifts, looking back into the characters’ childhood, teenage years and more recent history. Gradually, we get to know and understand them better, realising where and when it all started and what made them the way they are.

Five Strings is the first Maori novel published this year and the second novel by Taylor, who is also a poet, musician and painter. The book launch took place in May at the Auckland Central Library, depicted in the novel as a place where one of the characters likes to hang out.

Title: Five Strings

Author: Apirana Taylor

Recommended by Maria M, Central Library

Maria M believes reading is the best way to understand other people and places. She is an avid bilingual reader who is particularly interested in New Zealand fiction.

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