I always get excited when I see many writers I admire hype up the same book, especially one from a local author. Tauhou by Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall is one such book. The fanfare around this title saw me heading down to Unity Books one day after work, eager to buy and take home immediately.
Tauhou is a story of interconnectedness between two cultures, with fictional reimaginings of post-colonial Aotearoa and Vancouver Island being neighbors in the same sea, instead of seperated by the globe. Each represents the author’s ancestry; she is of Māori and Coast Salish descent. Similarly the characters in this book are joined by a shared family.
The novel is a patchwork of stories, each important individually, while also creating a larger narrative of shared healing from colonial trauma and connecting to the birthright of one’s ancestry. Titihuia Nuttal’s writing is evocative, with beautiful imagery that you can fully visualise, pristine at the ocean’s edge.
We follow characters receiving traditional tattoos, which has one character “seeing the thousand different women who made her, clenched between the tattoo’s teeth in ink and blood.” We see a family watching a moonfish, wondering if it is dead until, “one by one [they] wander off to look at other things.” We see two of the family going on an errant drive out of civilization, where “it feels like a waste not to breathe this air properly.”
And it’s this family that makes up the heart of the novel. Throughout its pages they explore, heal, love, and create together. It is a joy to read and witness, especially with such lush writing to deliver it to you. I was thrilled at how delicately beautiful this book was, and can talk about it with nothing but praise.
If you’re looking for something new, or a book to start off this year’s reading goal, look no further than Tauhou.