Full of Books

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff Review

Title: Once Were Warriors

Author: Alan Duff

First published January 1, 1990

200 pages

Rating: 3.97


Get ready for a gripping read that delves into the complex world of Maoris in New Zealand society. With an unflinching approach, this novel offers a stark portrayal of frustration, resentment, and waste.

Through the eyes of its characters, the story takes us on a raw and powerful journey, where everyone seems to be a victim. But amidst the brutality, one woman emerges as a beacon of hope, showing that strength and vision can transcend even the toughest of circumstances.

This is the first part of an unforgettable trilogy that will leave you wanting more.

About the Author

Alan Duff, a novelist and newspaper columnist from New Zealand, is widely recognized for his book Once Were Warriors. He began writing full-time in 1985, but his first attempt at a thriller novel was rejected, leading him to burn the manuscript and start afresh.

Once Were Warriors was an instant success, written using interior monologues in a unique style that set it apart from other works. The book won the PEN Best First Book Award, was runner-up in the Goodman Fielder Wattie Award, and was adapted into an award-winning film in 1994.

Duff’s One Night Out Stealing, published in 1991, was shortlisted for the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards the following year. In 1991, he was awarded the Frank Sargeson Fellowship, and he began writing a weekly (later bi-weekly) column for the Evening Post that was syndicated to eight other newspapers.

In his analysis Māori: The Crisis and the Challenge, published in 1993, Duff developed his ideas on the failures of Māoridom, criticizing both traditional leadership and the radical movement for focusing on past injustices instead of encouraging Māori to help themselves. Duff has faced controversy for his message that Māori are to blame for their own underperformance.

State Ward, which began as a radio series in 1993, was published as a novella in 1994. In 1995, Duff co-founded the Books in Homes scheme with Christine Fernyhough, which aimed to provide low-cost books to underprivileged children to encourage reading and alleviate poverty and illiteracy.

The scheme delivered 5 million books to schools around New Zealand by 2008.

Duff’s What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, the sequel to Once Were Warriors, won the fiction section of the 1997 Montana Book Awards and was adapted into a film in 1999. Two Sides of the Moon was published in 1998, and Duff wrote his own memoir, Out of the Mist and the Steam, in 1999.

Szabad, published in 2001, was Duff’s first novel set outside of New Zealand and was inspired by his trips to Hungary. Jake’s Long Shadow, published in 2002, is the third volume in the Once Were Warriors trilogy.

In 2003, Once Were Warriors was adapted into a musical drama and performed across New Zealand.

Editoral Review

Once Were Warriors, by Alan Duff, is a stunning and deeply moving novel that explores the lives of a Maori family in New Zealand. Written in 1990, the book is a powerful depiction of poverty, alcoholism, and domestic violence, as well as a testament to the enduring strength and resilience of the human spirit.

The story follows the lives of the Heke family, living in a poor suburb of Auckland. Jake Heke is the father, an alcoholic who is prone to violent outbursts when he is drinking.

His wife Beth is no less tragic, having sacrificed her own dreams and ambitions to marry Jake and have children. Together, they have five children, who are all struggling to find their place in the world.

The novel is set in the 1980s, a time when Maori culture was still reeling from the effects of colonization and urbanization. Duff’s writing is stunning, capturing the raw emotions and struggles of his characters with compassion and sensitivity.

He is unflinching in his portrayal of poverty, violence, and addiction, yet at the same time he imbues his characters with a sense of hope and resilience that is truly inspiring. The novel is not only a gripping page-turner, but also a profound meditation on the human condition and the search for identity and belonging.

At its heart, Once Were Warriors is a story about family, and the challenges of building and maintaining loving relationships in the face of overwhelming adversity. The characters are fully realized and deeply sympathetic, from the troubled but resilient youngest son Boogie to the rebellious and headstrong daughter Grace.

Despite its bleak subject matter, the novel is ultimately a story of redemption and hope. Duff does not shy away from the difficulties of his characters’ lives, but he also shows that there is always the possibility of change and growth, even in the most dire circumstances.

In terms of weaknesses, the book could be criticized for its heavy reliance on violence and tragedy as plot devices. Some readers may find the brutality of the novel overwhelming or off-putting.

However, these criticisms are somewhat mitigated by the powerful message of hope and resilience that pervades the book. Overall, Once Were Warriors is an essential work of modern literature, exploring issues of race, class, and gender with intelligence, sensitivity, and deep compassion.

It is a book that will stay with readers long after they have finished it, and one that deserves to be read by a wide audience. For those who enjoy books that offer a powerful insight into the human experience, Once Were Warriors is a must-read.

It is a deeply moving and thought-provoking novel that will leave readers feeling inspired and uplifted. As such, it is highly recommended for anyone interested in modern literature, cultural studies, or the human condition.

We give it a rating of five out of five stars.

Popular Books