The Literature Hub
AUTHOR: Albert Wendt
PUBLISHER: Longman Paul (also re-published by Penguin)
NUMBER OF PAGES: 217
Synopsis: Samoan-born Albert Wendt was working as a teacher in Samoa when he wrote the autobiographical Sons for the Return Home, first published in 1973. It is the story of a cross-racial romance between a Samoan student at Auckland University, the son of migrant parents, and the daughter of a wealthy palagi family. It was an instant bestseller and was later made into a successful movie
How I Discovered or Acquired This Book: A compulsory read for Uni.
Noteworthy Experiences While Reading This Book: There was once scene on pages 78 &79 where Wendt was describing the killing of a pig in such a way that I had to close the book because I felt physically sick.
Check Out Author’s Other Books or Related Books? No.
Quality of Writing: 7/10
Plot Development: 7/10
Ease of Reading: 6/10
Recommend This Book? To Whom? I would recommend this book to anyone who would like a decent book to read. Aimed more at adults.
Notes and Opinions: This book deals well with the struggles of a Samoan family fitting in in New Zealand quite well for the most part. However, some parts I thought were too focused on sex (or ‘making love’ as it was called in the books, although I didn’t get the sense that the characters actually loved one another). I found the relationship between the male Samoan narrator and the papalagi (white) girlfriend too clinical – again, they seemed to be obsessed with sex, and trying to understand each other in ways that sometimes resulted in their own humiliation. At the beginning, the story jumped around a bit – the book isn’t told in chronological order – and I was a little confused, but as the story progressed, I began to see how it all fit and my confusion disappeared. Violence is talked about and described in a pretty casual way, similar to the relationship with the papalagi girl – he says he loves her but I, as the reader, don’t feel the supposed love he has for her. You have to read between the lines in some parts, especially when the papalagi girl gets pregnant and says she wants to have it, but the talks to the male protagonist’s mother and all of a sudden she doesn’t want it anymore. My favourite part of this book was the letters from the girl (she was in Australia at the time she chose to have the abortion, her boyfriend was in New Zealand) after she got rid of the baby. The way she described the need for something that isn’t there anymore, as if it should be but is lost, really made me feel her sorrow and regret over listening to his mother and not following her heart. The characters were flat at the beginning of the book, but at the end, the two main protagonists (papalagi girl and Samoan boy) were three dimensional, and much better at the end of the book.
Overall Rating: 4 Stars