Kehua! by Fay Weldon

In the Weekend Herald this morning there is an interview with Fay Weldon. She has written a new book called “Kehua!” Which sounds interesting and entertaining. A fiction, here is a brief review from a site called

Kehua by Fay Weldon
A kehua is a Maori ghost – the wandering dead searching for their ancestral home. Without the proper rituals to send them on their way, kehua are forced to remain on Earth to haunt their relatives. They’re not dangerous, and they even try to help the living, though it’s wise not to listen to them. They tend to get things wrong…In the wake of murder and suicide, a young woman flees New Zealand, hoping to escape the past and find a new life. But the unshriven spirits of the recently departed can’t rest peacefully, and are forced to emigrate with her, crossing oceans to finally settle in – of all places – Muswell Hill, London. Here their shadowy flutterings and murmured advice haunts the young woman and her female bloodline across the decades, across the generations. ‘Run!’ the Kehua whisper. ‘Run, run, run!’

Here is an excerpt from the interview with Fay Weldon from the Weekend Herald NZ.

Weldon is unsure when she first became aware of the existence of kehua. ” I have a Maori daughter in law and she has never mentioned them,” she says. “I must have read about them somewhere and then they came to mind when I was thinking about the story of the New Zealand family who have come over here and have this impulse to run.

I was wondering what caused that and perhaps it was the spirits of the country, the kehua. I then became interested in the sense of family and belonging, which is very important and strong in Maori Culture. At the beginning, this family have lost that feeling but they come to realise that there is a family that you belong to whether you like it or not, which is quite a compelling and comforting idea.

She compares the kehua to similar phenomena is other mythologies, such as the Scottish kelpies, the Greek furies, and the hungry ghosts of Chinese folklore. “in the novel, they’re the grateful dead, the dybbuks,” says Weldon, who suggests that they may be psychological manifestations of past traumas. “you can give them a name, call them spirits or ghosts, but they really are compulsions, which follow families through generations. All cultures have that. In England they tend to be domestic ghosts in old houses, this house being the house in the book.

Fay Weldons book  Kehua! is out now through Corvus.


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