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Come On Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All: A New Zealand Story Hardcover – July 22, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this unusual hybrid of history and memoir, Harvard Review editor Thompson examines the historical collisions between Westerners and Maoris through the lens of her marriage to a Maori man. As an American grad student in Australia, Thompson met her husband-to-be, known as Seven, while on vacation in New Zealand. She was petite, blonde and intellectual; he was large, dark and working-class. Yet within a short time, they had married and started a family. Their relationship, and her scholarship, took them back and forth across the Pacific, until they finally settled in her family's New England home outside Boston. Thompson's deep knowledge of the history of Europeans in the Pacific allows her to trace the misunderstandings and stereotypes that have marked perceptions of Polynesians up to the present day. A sensitive observer and polished stylist, Thompson is never dully tendentious or dogmatic. The narrative moves smoothly by way of well-told anecdotes both personal and historical. At times, Thompson covers so much territory—there's a stray chapter about her family's interactions with Native Americans in Minnesota—that it can feel like she's trying to do too much, yet her prose never disappoints. Seven, the man at the center of the book, remains pleasingly opaque, as if Thompson is saying that we can never know completely even those we love best. (July)
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Review

“[A] fine account. Her observations about the enduring effects of colonization [are] penetrating. She puts her vantage point of insider-outsider to good effect, tracing the genealogy of racial stereotypes and cutting through some of New Zealand's most cherished myths about itself.” ―New York Times Book Review

“Thompson is never dully tendentious or dogmatic. The narrative moves smoothly by way of well-told anecdotes both personal and historical. Her prose never disappoints. ” ―Publishers Weekly

“Perceptive, endearing look at the often fraught contacts between Maoris and Westerners. A candid examination of persistent, troubling issues of race and stereotype in the history of the two cultures' encounters. Honest...forthright...well-wrought.” ―Kirkus

“Christina Thompson defines a contact encounter as "what we call it when two previously unacquainted groups meet for the very first time." This unusual, unclassifiable, unfailingly interesting book is a contact encounter. Few readers will forget their first meeting with the author, with her Maori husband, and with the historical context that swirls around them. Thompson writes beautifully, and, even more remarkably, she surprises us on every page.” ―Anne Fadiman, author of At Large and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

“A charming blend of travel writing, cultural history, anthropology, and memoir, this intriguing book honors the nineteenth-century explorers' narratives that are its inspiration.” ―Andrea Barrett, author of Ship Fever and The Voyage of the Narwhal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First American Edition edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596911263
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596911260
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #839,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an American transplant to New Zealand, I have to say that I found Christina Thompson's book an absolutely fascinating read. And as the author of two books on New Zealand myself (the second one a work-in-progress), I have to say that her volume has add immeasurably to my effort to understand, not only the historic Maori, but Maori today. I can also appreciate her cross cultural experience via marriage, being that my wife was born and raised in France. If Pakeha--Europeans--have historically viewed Maori with some ambiguity, I can testify to the fact that my French in-laws view me in a similar fashion. To put it politely they see me as a creature only a generation off the frontier that doesn't even know how to use a knife and fork properly--the French version of a savage, one might say. Ms. Thompson's Maori in-laws, on the other hand, impress me as being my idea of what in-laws should be. (I hope my mother-in-law doesn't read this.)
I have only one complaint about this book, and that is that I found the lack of signposts disorienting. That is to say that the reader has no way of knowing when Ms. Thompson's journey began. Was it in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s? Except for that omission, I would have to give this book five stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book at my local bookstore and could not put it down. Thompson's book mixes memoir with historic research to create a very accessible and interesting book. She smoothly combines her research on the literature of colonial-Maori contact with her own story of how she met and married her Maori husband. One of the best books on the contacts between very different cultures that I have read in a long time. And it will make you want to go to New Zealand too.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a white north american once married to an African-Jamaican man, I appreciate Ms Thompsons' framing her book as one of contact between colonizer and colonized, sharing some of the history and showing as much awareness as she has of the snares of partnership across culture and class. I missed more details of the marriage itself, how they navigated these complex waters, even though I honor her statements about not wanting to cross privacy boundaries of her husband or his family. The book strikes me a valuable mix of her professional skills as an anthropologist and researcher and an honest personal story. A lively and valuable read for anyone interested in how we make contact and enter relationships across our many differences in this world. Can't disagree that Penguin History of NZ would be better history, but that is not purpose of this "story." Well written as well. Highly recommend.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought the author became a bit lost between the history of the Maori people and her own biography. At times I almost felt that she married her Maori husband as a research project and then failed to tell the reader about it. However, I did learn a great deal of the history of New Zealand.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be an interesting approach to writing a memoir. There are many parallels to current events in my life and have found inspiration from the author in how I can accept change and differences. Therefore I make a strong personal recommendation to read and enjoy this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book taught me more about New Zealand and the Maori than I'd expected, and for that I am grateful. I was especially charmed by how the author placed familiar historical figures (Darwin, Captain Cook) on a timeline vividly and intuitively.

If only she'd shared as much insight in the personal parts of her story. Why did she hold back so much about the love and lust and joy and tears that are the meat of every marriage? At the very least, it would have helped if the book had included photographs of her husband and her homes. The cold, unsmiling headshot of the author provided little further emotional insight.

Early in the story, she mentions how her thesis proposal was criticized (arrogantly, in my opinion) for being overly emotional and personal. This criticism seems to have cut deep. I was left wondering if she'd applied it to her life... and this book.

That said, though, it is an interesting and unique story. Certainly a must-read for anyone traveling to New Zealand.
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Format: Paperback
I've lived in four of the five main regions this book discusses (New Zealand, Australia, Boston, and St. Paul, Minnesota--I'm missing Hawai'i) so I feel especially qualified to review it. It's nonetheless a difficult book to review, in part because it's really two books in one.

The first book showcases the pitch perfect notes of a participant-observer in the antipodes, and this is where the book shines. Thompson has some piercing insights into both Kiwi and Aussie cultures, and she has a wonderful ability to express them through carefully chosen anecdotes. I would recommend this book to anyone moving to that part of the world because Thompson's observations are so incisive and memorably articulated.

The second book, the personal memoir, rang hollow for me. Thompson seems less interested in relating a personal story than she is in crafting a personal mythology. Consequently, the book lacks a certain humanity. The detached, ethnographic eye that works so well for describing the nuances of unfamiliar cultures falls short when it is turned inward on the author's own family. The most important character in the book--her husband--never materializes as a fully formed human being but remains a research subject, important mostly to the extent that he represents the every-Maori. Most oddly, though, and most frustratingly, Thompson comes off as blind to her own privilege. I know first hand what it's like to live as a graduate student and an under-employed academic so I empathize with those struggles. But I also recognize that the challenge is a whole lot easier when you have a well-heeled family in an affluent Boston suburb to fall back on.
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