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Review – The shadow of the Boyd by Diana Menefy

May 1, 2011

Finalist in the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2011

Reviewed by Carol 

The terrible tragedy of the Boyd is recounted to us by way of a record written by sixteen-year-old apprentice seaman Thomas Davidson, while on the voyage home after his rescue from captivity in a maori village. The Captain of the rescue ship, ‘The City of Edinburgh,’ suggests that Thomas write down what he remembers of the events leading up to, and including, the massacre in order that they have an eye witness account of the incident. The journal will also function as a form of therapy, because he realised how distressed Thomas was feeling.

 Thomas’s story begins with his family and flashbacks to how he was apprenticed to the ‘Boyd’, and follows the course of the ill-fated voyage to New Zealand. At the same time, we are sailing with Thomas on the ‘City of Edinburgh’ and experiencing with him the thrills and hardships of that voyage also.

 A seaman’s life was anything but easy in those days, with overcrowding, lots of hard work and very little time off. Illness and bad food was common, and the youngest sailors, and foreigners, were often the target of ill humour and aggression. Cruelty was rife. A good friend was a real blessing, and Thomas found one in another apprentice seaman on board the ‘Boyd’ , but lost him in a most appalling manner at the time of the massacre. We learn a bit about the way the Maori lived at that time; their concept of revenge (utu) and also their sense of loyalty – that being what saved Thomas from the fate of most of those on board the ‘Boyd’.  The book concludes with details of what happened to the few survivors and some of the other people who were involved, including Thomas himself.

The main parts of Thomas’s account are true as a fact of history, but a story has been woven around them to give a fuller picture of what may have been one of the grimmest incidents in our history. I found this tale extremely moving and the way in which it is written causes the reader to become very involved in Thomas’s life on board both the ‘Boyd’ and the ‘City of Edinburgh’. It is a well written and captivating story.

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2 Comments
  1. This sounds like a great book. I really like historically based fiction stories -stories that are a mix of real and fiction -especially ones told from the point of view of a kid 🙂

  2. Natalie permalink

    Thanks!

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