This is the 1984 Booker Prize winning novel from New Zealand. The novel is about an artist of mixed heritage living in a tower by the seaside. She meets a young boy who doesn’t speak but does try to steal from her. He’s an orphan under the care of a Maori man who is both kind and violent in his nature. Through the novel the three (along with various other members of the community) interact and form an imperfect trio figuring out how to love each other and failing and succeeding at various turns.
The book is very good, but also very challenging in some key ways. For one, it’s not written in dialect exactly, but it is written in a kind of affected third person narration that is fractured, repetitive, and stilted. The book also infuses a lot of Maori language into the dialog and the narration, and while there’s a glossary and you can manage without it, it slows things down.
Another challenging factor is there is not a lot of plot and the book is pretty long (450 pages) and all these factors (the language, the plotlessness, and the length) present various difficulties.
The book is quite interesting and never feels very English (it’s not, obviously!) in that way that a lot of books that take place in former colonial spaces end up being mostly English novels in foreign spaces. Instead the book reminds me of a lot of Native American/American Indigenous books, but with a clearly New Zealand feel them (expressly, the dialog is unmistakenly written with New Zealand speaking voice (ie I hear them in native accents).