Once Were Warriors

Once Were Warriors

4.8 5
by Alan Duff

View All Available Formats & Editions

Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff's harrowing vision of his country's indigenous people two hundred years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the


Once Were Warriors is Alan Duff's harrowing vision of his country's indigenous people two hundred years after the English conquest. In prose that is both raw and compelling, it tells the story of Beth Heke, a Maori woman struggling to keep her family from falling apart, despite the squalor and violence of the housing projects in which they live. Conveying both the rich textures of Maori tradition and the wounds left by its absence, Once Were Warriors is a masterpiece of unblinking realism, irresistible energy, and great sorrow.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A searing look at the urban subculture of New Zealand's native people." — Toronto Globe and Mail

"A starkly realistic account...as important, as frank, as powerful a book as [Alice Walker's The Color Purple] was for Americans."

Dominion (New Zealand)

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Part of Hawaii's TalanoaContemporary Pacific Literature imprint, this first novel won the 1991 PEN Best First Book Award amid controversy over Duff's perceived condemnation of Maori society as largely responsible for the hopelessness plaguing its communities. In a Maori ghetto of urban New Zealand, Jake and Beth Heke battle entrenched poverty, racism and other ills that overwhelm their traditional Maori culture. With a gritty, realistic eye, Duff portrays Jake and Beth, who because of alcoholism, abuse and poverty can provide little protection against the gangs, drugs and violence that menace their children. Most vulnerable is Grace who dreams of escape into the Pakeha (white) world and whose brutal rape triggers the downward spiral of events. Duff's choppy sentences, repeated phrasing and use of Maori slang may require some adjustment for American readers, but ultimately his staccato prose style is ideally suited to a world of not-so-quiet desperation. Regardless of one's position on the controversy, the half Pakeha /half Maori Duff provides a compelling and insightful glimpse into the overwhelming struggles faced by the disenfranchised poor of any urban society--including America's own inner cities. (July)
Library Journal
The Maoris in Pine Block, New Zealand, have lives filled with frustration, alcohol, and violence. Why? It had ``sumpthin to do with race, with being a Maori and so being a bit on the wild side when you compared with the other race, the ones running the show.'' The Maoris envy the pakehas (whites) for their wealth and stately homes but take no positive steps to improve their lot. Beth Heke is an abused wife, mother of six, and member of the broken Maori tribe. Her unemployed husband, Jake, is ``the Big man with the big rep and the even bigger mitts [who] takes pride in being a man of violence, savoring other men's deference to him as their physicalbetter.'' When an unspeakable tragedy strikes the Heke family, Beth transcends her personal hell to find a mission in life. Written in broken dialect and sprinkled liberally with coarse language, this book allows readers to experience the raw reality of this society. Powerful but unsettling.-Kimberly G. Allen, MCI Corporate Information Resources Ctr., Washington, D.C.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
1st Vintage International ed
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 7.95(h) x 0.43(d)

Meet the Author

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Once Were Warriors 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once Were Warriors is an urban drama published in the 90's by author Alan Duff. The major theme is that nothing is more powerful than a mother's love. Significant charcters in Once Were Warriors are Jake Heke and his family. Jake is an abusive who abuses his wife and children in and out of drunk rages. Although it would not seem,he greatly love his family. Jake is the one who brings home the bacon.His wife Beth Heke loves her children more than anything which is exactly why she puts up with Jake and remains at home.The Children that are significant to the story are Grace, Nig, and Boogie 'Mark'. Boogie is continuously getting into trouble with the law. Nig is tired of living at home so he leaves and joins a street gang and looks to them as though they were his family. Grace is their oldest daughter who has the most problems. The only peice of setting that is needed in this story is the time era it is in. The book could take place anywhere in the world but not anytime in history. Major conflicts include Jake getting fired from his job eaving them with no income. Boogie getting arrested for breaking into a car, going to court, and being taken to a foster home. At a party, one night, everyone is drinking and Nig finally comes home but unexpectedly to an unpleasant scene. Drunk: his mother slaps him, so he leaves to his 'family' at the pub'bar. Upset with herself she screams at he brother-in-law, so Jake beats her up. And most disgustingly somewhere within this time Grace is being raped by a mystery person.In time Grace realizes she is through putting up with her family and so she hang herself. The element that Duff uses is not showing the strong, independent side of Beth. He also uses the diary Grace writes in to show secret truth. Jake thinks he is the rapist so he leaves to live at a park and reflect. He couldn't remember because he was too drunkat the time. The story definitely shows suspense and hard-hitting realism. One important quote frome the book no one said, I just found it while reading. It was more of a tagline. It reads, 'Her only chance at her future is to embrace the power of her past... Nothing is more powerful than a mother's love.' The story is read in a third. The narrator was reliable in most parts of the story. The only part was not revealing who the rapist was. The story needed a third person point of view much would've changed or not been known if it wasn't. Once Were Warriors was an excellent and strong piece of literature. Alan Duff really outdid himself. The book was great. The only thing that bothers is not knowing who the rapist was but otherwise, perfect. I recommend this book to people with likes of suspense and drama. This book has an excellent story line. Marvelous plot. People who like books with good plot this book is a must.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kia ora, I saw the movie when it was first released in NZ and since arriving in Plymouth, United Kingdom have reccommended both the first and second film as well as the books. A reality hit from a Maori perspective rather than a Pakeha trying to see through the eyes of a Maori person. Kia kaha NZ
Guest More than 1 year ago
A book that breaks down what really happens in a soicaty hidden from public view, Allan Duff allows you to fall into this world of alcohol and abuse and to come out with a true understanding of life in a proverished sociaty. The story of the 'Hekes' is both gripping and saddening to see life through the eyes of the poor, and espeically those of a different race who live in the shadow of the pakeha ( white person ). This book is a credit to all New Zealanders, with my self being one i feel a sense of pride and self betrayel as i read this gripping novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alan Duff is a real storyteller. The language he uses is coarse and dark yet melodious at the same time, in perfect tune with the events he's telling you about. The words are almost a singsong in your head, giving a view of a society, you hear almost nothing about.