Scoop Review of Books

Ihimaera Buys Back Remaining Stock of Trowenna Sea

Press Release: Penguin Books NZ – 17 November 2009

New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera is to purchase the remaining warehouse stock of the novel The Trowenna Sea from his publisher Penguin Group (NZ).

At the same time Penguin has announced that it is offering to take back stock from any bookseller who wishes to return the book.

Penguin publishing director Geoff Walker said that Penguin plans to publish a new edition of The Trowenna Sea in 2010. The new edition will contain a new section by the author explaining the background and making full acknowledgement to writers whose work has been drawn on.

‘I have taken this step to preserve the mana and integrity of the novel,’ Witi Ihimaera said. ‘Since it was published two weeks ago media scrutiny has revealed a small number of instances where I have inadvertently not acknowledged sources of historical material or unknowingly copied material.

‘Although I have already made the relevant apologies and have publicly undertaken to fully audit the book myself, it seemed appropriate to remove the first edition immediately and begin working on a corrected second edition.’

A historical novel, The Trowenna Sea tells the story of five Maori wrongly transported to Tasmania in the 1840s for taking up arms against the New Zealand government. They were temporarily incarcerated on Maria Island under the care of John Jennings Imrie and his wife Ettie Bailey. One of the prisoners, Hohepa te Umuroa, died while imprisoned and it is his remarkable life which is at the heart of the novel.

Said Geoff Walker: ‘All writers of historical fiction draw to some extent on the work of historians and others, and this is to be expected. It is a long and accepted tradition that goes back to Shakespeare, but clearly Witi Ihimaera has taken this extraordinary step to show that he is actively engaged in resolving the issues involved. We congratulate him on that. The Trowenna Sea is a very fine historical novel, which we’ve been very proud to publish.’


  1. Katherine Short, 27. November 2009, 9:54

    For everyone digging in their spurs, pointing out facts or throwing around literary protocols, I challenge you to read the book and then comment. (…and please forgive me if you have and still feel you need to do so!)

    However, I have never had the priviledge of finishing a book so soon after it was published. The ink is barely dry! Like the other Ihimaera books I’ve read (at least 3), it is wonderful, special, unique and powerful.

    I was in NZ visiting my family when it was recommended by my F.A.B sister. I bought her a copy for Christmas and savored one for myself on the long journey back to where I live in Switzerland. I didn’t start it until I was back in Switzerland and coping with missing my whanau, land and sea.

    The story of Hohepa and his fellow chiefs who were transported to Tasmania (where my family has also lived for many years) provided me with great comfort as I adjusted to again being an expat in a foreign land and culture.

    Witi Ihimaera apologised as soon as the plagiarism was pointed out. The book is fantastic. Let it be reprinted. Let the current versions be composted if necessary but please do not stand in the way of it selling, prolifically and spreading New Zealands’ terrific and unique history around our nation and around the world.

    Thank you Witi Ihimaera for continuing to write such awesome books. How you manage to capture the sensibilities of every character whose eyes the stories are told through, I marvel at.

    I look forward to re-reading the Matriach and Dream Swimmer at leat and to picking up the others you’ve written too!

  2. Keri Hulme, 3. December 2009, 0:57

    I’ve read all Witi’s books. While “The Trowenna Sea” has excellent moments, they are few, and very far between. It is largely turgid, explanatory, boring- and I look forward, very much, to the rewrite – because the current – going/gone- volume is a first draft.