Paul Feenstra’s Boundary is an insightful tale that deals with an issue little explored in fiction: the English colonization of New Zealand. Steeped in history and peppered with factual incidents and figures, the tale gives history a human face that spans both sides of imperial expansion: those who view it as colonization, and those who view it as invasion.
The strength of Feenstra’s story lies in the detailed glimpse into Maori culture and the politics and deception—toward both the indigenous peoples and the immigrants—involved in the English settlement of Britannia and Wellington. Not only was the New Zealand Company unscrupulous in its dealings with the Maori and the English immigrants, but the company also went against the policy of the British government in their dealings. The practice of Systemic Colonisation resulted in theft and relentless indenturement. Feenstra does a stellar job of giving the reader insight into each side with his finally crafted characters, some of whom were extracted from the pages of history: the Wakefield brothers, caught up in the British dream of an empire upon which the sun never sets and blinded by wealth; Barrett, ruthless and screaming with his own greedy agendas; Ngaiti, a man who understands both cultures; and Chief Te Wharepōuri, motivated to protect both his people and the innocent immigrants. The characters of Andrew and Eleanor Stewart, newlyweds looking for a fresh start and opportunity, are fictional, but their evolvement over the course of the story marks a path from naiveté to a passion for justice. Tied to the New Zealand company, they grow increasingly discontent with the company’s dishonest and disrespectful dealings.
The plot is finely woven, and while the first one hundred pages begin slowly to set the stage, the intrigue of the last three-quarters of the book builds steadily as tensions mount to a senseless tragedy and a dangerous meeting at dawn. Feenstra’s Boundary is an intriguing tale with a vast cast of characters and a stellar look into the western settlement of New Zealand.