Taukiri was born into sorrow. Auē can be heard in the sound of the sea he loves and hates, and in the music he draws out of the guitar that was his father’s. It spills out of the gang violence that killed his father and sent his mother into hiding, and the shame he feels about abandoning his eight-year-old brother to a violent home.
This complexity is not so much confounding as enticing: each character is bound within a perspective that limits what they can know about the story as a whole, and the plot reveals are masterful ... In so many ways, Auē is quite different from its 1980s literary predecessors, more hopeful and tender ... Novelists must understand all of the above, without doubt, but the form asks us to go beyond. In bringing to the page characters who maim, but also characters who love fiercely, Manawatu has had to enter the aching heart of this story and bring her characters back from dark places. Auē has done well because it is expertly crafted, but also because it has something indefinable: enthralling, puzzling, gripping and familiar, yet otherworldly. I do see us in it, but I also see more.
... highly accomplished ... a very impressive debut that sweeps you along with its characters ... Manawatu's real achievement lies in two aspects of the novel. Firstly, she deftly intertwines several narrative strands, mixing the trajectories of Taukiri, Arama, their mother, Jade, and her husband, Toko. She moves easily between the past and the present, never revealing the cause of the death of Toko and the disappearance of Jade until the final few chapters. The younger brother, Arama, is the lynchpin. His story binds the others together, creating huge sympathy for his innocent plight...Secondly, Manawatu has caught the nuances of the different voices of the tale ... The only jarring note is the inclusion of unnamed, italicised voices in the last-third of the book. These are unclear and need more focus ... Where Manawatu's inexperience shows is in her climax. In a riot of implausibility, she brings all her strands together in one melodramatic rush. Coincidences pile on top of one another to stretch our credibility way beyond breaking point. This is a real pity, as it undoes much of the good, steady work she has done before ... Nevertheless, Auē signals the entrance of an impressive talent. Roll on the next!
Manawatu excels at enriching her characters and story lines with heartbreaking detail ... this layered work weaves a striking tapestry of fierce love and unflinching violence worthy of its poetic title ... These losses can get a bit muddy, and the book’s plotting veers dangerously close to melodrama in its chaotic final act, but Manawatu recovers with a moving finish to this devastating, beautifully written tale imbued with Maori culture and language.