The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Set in New Zealand at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Tapu is the fictionalised account of Jane Kendall, wife of the hapless missionary Thomas Kendall who sails to New Zealand with the intention of converting the heathen but who becomes converted himself by their culture, their language and their religion.
Kendall is an idealist whose passion to serve the Lord leads him to neglect his own wife and children. Jane, a naive Lincolnshire peasant woman, has followed him to the other side of the world out of wifely duty. However, the hardship both she and her children are forced to experience transforms her unquestioning love into a stony contempt.
It's a book with a serious intent but one that is full of an engaging humour. The characterization is vivid and pithy, the voices of the characters intense and utterly convincing.
Tapu opens a window onto a chapter in history that was completely unknown to me. Reading it, I felt both entertained and enlightened. This is the kind of book that stays with you.