A beautifully written, fiercely intelligent and boldly conceived book that puts the author's unlikely marriage to a Maori man into the context of the history of Western colonization of New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All is the story of the cultural collision between Westerners and the Maoris of New Zealand, told partly as a history of the complex and bloody period of contact between Europeans and the Maoris in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and partly as the story of Christina Thompson's marriage to a Maori man.
As an American graduate student studying history in Australia, Thompson traveled to New Zealand and met a Maori known as "Seven." Their relationship is one of opposites: he is a tradesman, she is an intellectual; he comes from a background of rural poverty, she from one of middleclass privilege; he is a "native," she descends directly from "colonizers." Nevertheless, they shared a similar sense of adventure and a willingness to depart from the customs of their families and forge a life together on their own.
In this book, which grows out of decades of reading and research, Thompson explores cultural displacement through the ages and the fascinating history of Europeans in the South Pacific, beginning with Abel Tasman's discovery of New Zealand in 1642 and Cook's circumnavigation of 1770. Transporting us back and forth in time and around the world, from Australia to Hawaii to tribal New Zealand and finally to a house in New England that has ghosts of its own, Come on Shore brings to life a lush variety of characters and settings. Yet at its core, it is the story of two people who meet, fall in love, and are forever changed.
"A multilayered, highly informative and insightful book that blends memoir, historical and travel narrative...vivid and meticulously researched."--San Francisco Chronicle
In this unusual hybrid of history and memoir, Harvard Review editor Thompson examines the historical collisions between Westerners and Maoris through the lens of her marriage to a Maori man. As an American grad student in Australia, Thompson met her husband-to-be, known as Seven, while on vacation in New Zealand. She was petite, blonde and intellectual; he was large, dark and working-class. Yet within a short time, they had married and started a family. Their relationship, and her scholarship, took them back and forth across the Pacific, until they finally settled in her family's New England home outside Boston. Thompson's deep knowledge of the history of Europeans in the Pacific allows her to trace the misunderstandings and stereotypes that have marked perceptions of Polynesians up to the present day. A sensitive observer and polished stylist, Thompson is never dully tendentious or dogmatic. The narrative moves smoothly by way of well-told anecdotes both personal and historical. At times, Thompson covers so much territory "there's a stray chapter about her family's interactions with Native Americans in Minnesota "that it can feel like she's trying to do too much, yet her prose never disappoints. Seven, the man at the center of the book, remains pleasingly opaque, as if Thompson is saying that we can never know completely even those we love best.