The following review may contain spoilers for the above novel.
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You remember that book you hated studying in school? The one you had to carry around in you bag for 3 months, trying to get through it and analysing it to death every English class? You probably wrote a pretty shoddy essay on it, an essay which no doubt featured all the same arguments and perspectives every other student was putting forward.
Witi Ihimaera's The Uncle's Story is not that book.
Michael Mahana's personal disclosure to his parents leads to the uncovering of another family secret – about his uncle, Sam, who had fought in the Vietnam War. Now, armed with his uncle's diary, Michael goes searching for the truth about his uncle, about the secret the Mahana family has kept hidden for over thirty years, and what happened to Sam.
Set in the war-torn jungles of Vietnam and in present-day New Zealand and North America, Witi Ihimaera's dramatic novel combines superb story-telling with unflinching realism. A powerful love story, it courageously confronts Maori attitudes to sexuality and masculinity and contains some of Ihimaera's most passionate writing to date. *
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Ihimaera writes with a quiet confidence that wrapped me up from the first page and carried me through to the end. His voice layers the drama and comedy to just the right degree, and it was so...warm. His voice was warm, which is not something I've ever said about another book or writer before.
Strangely, I haven't decided if I'll look into more of Ihimaera's work. I probably will, but it's more that I just want to read this one story over and over again.
Either way, one thing's for sure: this is one school book which won't be seeing in my resale pile.
Rating: 5 out of 5.