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This review is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

LOOKING BACK Maurice Shadbolt, Season of the Jew (Hodder and Stoughton) £10.95

The first thing that strikes you about this remarkable novel by a writer well-known in his native New Zealand is its style. The clipped sentences maintain a soldierly detachment from persons, salute their discrete separateness. It is a crossbred idiom, a hybrid of British and Maori dialects, and so an appropriate medium for disinterestedly narrating the conflict between those tribes. Combining painterly sensuousness and descriptive rigour, the novel's style originates in George Fairweather, soldier and amateur watercolourist. At the beginning of the book, he bemusedly observes Captain Duke make an impossible attempt on a Maori fortress in one of the last battles of the colonial wars. While lugging Duke's body back to the routed British, Fairweather's leg gives way and he is only delivered to safety by a Maori observing a compassionate native tradition. Fairweather bears and is borne by his Captain's determination to donate his body to military history. The man who survives into the rest of the novel is, like the novel's events, the half-blood offspring of the clash of opposites - the suicidal rigidity of British militarism and the vagaries of Maori battle-lore, unpredictably decreeing both hideous atrocities and unaccountable acts of mercy. Fairweather, who 'lives where earth and sky meet', is the mediator between those who profess to act on behalf of a cause and those who merely obey the dictates of selfish greed. In the events which follow, this is not the upright British and the unprincipled Maoris but the white settlers of Poverty ...


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