Song of the Spirits
Song of the Spirits is the second in the In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga, which intimates that there will be at least a third, if not a fourth. I lost myself in the first book and am happy to say I was equally engrossed in the second.
Set in New Zealand at the end of the 19th century, this book follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the granddaughters of the first volume’s protagonists. Elaine O’Keefe is the granddaughter of both Gwyneira McKenzie and Helen O’Keefe. Kura-maro-tini Warden is her cousin, the half-Maori granddaughter of Gwyneira. Kura, who longs for stardom as an opera singer, seduces Elaine’s boyfriend William and marries him, while Elaine seeks to forget her humiliation in marriage to the son of her mother’s old enemy. This bald description cannot do this book justice, as it is so much more than unhappy marriages and rivalry between cousins.
The first book’s focus was on the land and the pakeha’s (white man) conflict with the native. The second looks at the industrialization at the latter half of the 19th century from unsafe mining conditions to the advent of the Singer sewing machine. What makes New Zealand unique is not overlooked. Maori music plays a part in this tale; Kura co-opts it to bring to the pakeha, and Elaine’s abusive husband fears it. But the real narrative thread is the tale of Elaine and Kura and how these two very different women support themselves when their marriages sour. Lark does not stint on richly drawn characters. To anyone who may be dismayed by the book’s length, trust me, you’ll wish it was even longer. I eagerly await the next installment.