A New York Times Editor's Choice
Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All is the story of the cultural collision between Westerners and the Maoris of New Zealand, told partly as a history of the complex and bloody period of contact between Europeans and the Maoris in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and partly as the story of Christina Thompson's marriage to a Maori man. As an American graduate student studying literature in Australia, Thompson traveled on vacation to New Zealand, where she met a Maori known as "Seven." Their relationship was one of opposites: he was a tradesman, she an intellectual; he came from a background of rural poverty, she from one of middle-class privilege; he was a "native," she descended directly from "colonizers." Nevertheless, they shared a similar sense of adventure and a willingness to depart from the customs of their families and forge a life together on their own.
In this revelatory book, which grows out of decades of research, Thompson explores the meaning of cross-cultural contact and the fascinating history of Europeans in the South Pacific, beginning with Abel Tasman's discovery of New Zealand in 1642 and James Cook's famous circumnavigations of 1769–79. Gracefully transporting readers back and forth in time and around the world, from Australia to Hawaii to tribal New Zealand and finally to a house in New England that has ghosts of its own, Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All brings wildly diverse characters and settings to life. Yet at its core, it is the story of two people who, in making a life and a family together, bridge the gap between two worlds.
"[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."—The New York Times Book Review
"A multilayered, highly informative and insightful book that blends memoir, historical and travel narrative . . . [Thompson writes with] a Chekhovian clarity and restraint that in places possesses a poetic lucidity."—San Francisco Chronicle
"Charming, insightful, honest, balanced, the book offers a unique look at the pressures of marriage across cultural, racial, and geographical boundaries. Vivid, fascinating reading."—The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A thing of beauty."—Tampa Tribune
"A highly unusual blend of personal memoir, travel writing and anthropology . . . one's understanding is rocked, lifted and pushed about, as undercurrents collide."—Lynne Truss, Sunday Times (UK)
"Brilliant and bracing . . . nuanced and sophisticated . . . a superb book, full of gravity and power and truth."—Sydney Morning Herald
"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
"Perceptive, endearing look at the often fraught contacts between Maoris and Westerners, both in history and in the personal life of Harvard Review editor Thompson. Two decades ago, while on vacation from her graduate studies in literature of the Pacific at the University of Melbourne, the Boston-raised author met a Maori man in Kerikeri, New Zealand. She and Seven (so-named because he is the seventh of ten children) fell in love, married, had three children and lived all over the Pacific before moving in with her parents near Boston. Thompson mingles this personal story with a candid examination of persistent, troubling issues of race and stereotype in the history of the two cultures' encounters . . . Thompson gently portrays her husband's decidedly non-Western worldview: his resistance to planning for the future, his superstitiousness and his sense of communalism. It challenged her ingrained notions of class and race, and it also occasionally supported the Noble Savage stereotype. 'What was funny about living with Seven,' she writes, 'was the way those musty paradigms . . . would periodically spring to life' . . . Honest, forthright self-examination engenders a well-wrought sense of shared destiny."—Kirkus Reviews
"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 . . . 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 . . . her prose never disappoints."—Publishers Weekly