A new Māori novel about World War I

By Taroi Black

Award winning novelist Whiti Hereaka is about to launch her new novel, Legacy, which tells a story of a Māori teenager who travels back in time to World War I.  

It follows the Māori Contingent in Egypt and their heroic journey to return home.

“I'm very excited to launch Legacy. It's been four years in the writing so it's been a long journey for me”, she says.

It's her third published book in an eight year career as a novelist.  The idea only came about during the 100 year commemoration of World War I. 

“I didn't know anything about Māori in WWI.  I was very familiar with the Māori Battalion in WWII but hadn't heard anything about WWI.  So I did a little bit of digging.  I was surprised we didn't know these stories.”

In Legacy, the story follows a young teenager named Riki.

“It's a time-slip novel of a contemporary teenager of 2015 who gets in a accident.  He wakes up and finds himself in 1915, in Egypt, and he's in the Māori Contingent and he lives as his great-great grandfather, Te Ariki.”

Her research was based mainly on oral history.

“Unfortunately all of the veterans have passed on so a lot of my research was based in books.  I found a great published diary from the time called Homes from Māori Homes. That diary went through the Veteran's Day to day experiences of war.”

In 2014, Hereaka won the New Zealand Post Book Awards for children and young adults in her second book Bugs.