Chappy – Patricia Grace


“Family secrets are unravelled in this book about a Japanese man and his Maori wife, set during WWII in rural Aotearoa.”

➤ “Uprooted from his privileged European life and sent to New Zealand to find direction in his life, 21-year-old Daniel feels groundless. His mother advises him to reconnect with his history and in turn he goes on a journey to find out more about his Japanese grandfather, Chappy. 

Chappy deserted the Japanese army in the lead-up to WWII and as a stowaway he is found by Aki, a ship’s Maori crewman. Aki can’t pronounce Japan and interprets the word as Chappy, which becomes the man’s name. Aki brings Chappy into New Zealand illegally. He is adopted and supported by Aki’s family and eventually marries Oriwia, Daniel’s grandmother.

“However, Japan and the Japanese were not loved by New Zealanders because of the war, and as a result Chappy has many strained and broken relationships. In this affecting portrayal of family life, Grace explores intolerance, cross-cultural conflicts and the familial desire to belong.”

➤ “There is a wandering spirit about this book which transcends the family secret, but mimics the journeys of our ancestors, and the paths we travel to come together as family.

“Told through interweaving narratives, in (translated) Maori, Japanese and English, the characters in Chappy each bring their part of an international story, one that details the Maori story but also its place amongst the stories of others. There is no doubt this is a New Zealand story – it has mana; it is a story that relishes whanau and belonging.

“The multi-narration style takes a little getting used at the beginning but soon after I eased into it and found it did not disrupt the plot lines. This book is also a fascinating example of some of the untold stories of war, and the surprises keep coming right until the end.” – Rachel

➤ “Patricia Grace’s Chappy is a heartwarming and heartbreaking love story. As much as I enjoyed the novel there were times when the characters felt one-dimensional and I found myself hungry for more information on their motivations and also the setting they were in.

“Perhaps this was due to the story being a retelling of past events rather than being ‘here and now’. Also of course we do not hear directly from the lovely Chappy and instead have an interpretation of his life from those close to him.

“This is my first Patricia Grace novel (shame on me) and despite not fully connecting with the writing I would like to read more of her work so I can gain a greater sense of her style.” – Suzy


Published 2015
Penguin Books
256 pages

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