by Kayleen M. Hazlehurst
It’s not easy to insert fact into a work of fiction so that it seems a natural part of the story rather than documentary. This author, though, achieves it well.
The storyline is divided into five parts, told chronologically.
In Part One, from 1939, a time of the mobilization of New Zealand forces to serve in WW2, we meet the Wirima family. Two brothers leave their Northland farm to join the Māori Battalion and travel with it to Egypt, then to Greece where they fight in the front line.
In Part Two, the allied forces are driven back by the Germans and the older lad, Sonny, finds himself alone, having to find his way back to his fellow soldiers, or to safety.
In Part Three, Sonny continues his journey through the isles of the Cyclades, attempting to avoid enemy-held islands and to reunite with friendly forces.
The scene then shifts to Crete where he joins the local resistance – a time of hardship and danger. Part Five brings a perilous journey across the Mediterranean, and return to a measure of normality. Or is it? And can he settle to that?
In each of the parts, the accounts of Sonny making his way through foreign land, are matched with segments on what is happening in the Wirima family back in Aotearoa. The two places are linked by references to birds – hence the Kūkupa of the title.
Kayleen Hazlehurst shows much skill in taking information about places and the times and fusing it with imagination. There are full descriptions of locations, houses, and the lives of the people in many parts of Greece. Whether the author has visited these islands I have no idea, but the descriptions are detailed and vivid and more than believable.
Likewise are the details of particular battles, given without glorifying the events. Throughout the text there are several direct comments about the futility of war – the whole story of Sonny and the Wirima family illustrates this.
A huge amount of background research has gone into the writing of this novel and the way the facts have been combined with the human story, including effective use of te reo, has created a very admirable result.
Author: Kayleen M. Hazlehurst
Publisher: Blue Dragonfly Press