Captive Wife, The

Kidman, Fiona

  16 Reviews

This fictionalised account is based on the true story of Betty Guard and her two children who, returning from Sydney to the whaling station on Arapawa Island in the early 1830s, were captured by Ngati Ruanui and held for ransom. After her violent rescue, and reunification with her husband, Betty's life among the tribe is held under scrutiny. Reflects the social and sexual politics of early New Zealand. NZ Interest. Runner-up Montana NZ Book Awards Deutz Medal, 2006.

Comments from Groups

Mixed opinions on the book. Those that did finish liked the book, especially [author's] descriptions of Sydney life. Fiona has obviously researched in great detail. Wellington 016

The book provided an interesting insight into early European contact with Maori and also the early colonisation of Australia. The majority of members thought the book to be a worthwhile read. Hamilton 042

Most enjoyed the book. Some found the structure (particularly having events told only as stories about the time in NZ, interspersed with events of much later) rather muddling and difficult to follow. Many liked that this was a well researched historical novel. Provoked much discussion about life in NZ and Australia in the early 19th century. Doubtful Bay 001

Great read. Everyone enjoyed it, some were a bit horrified in respect of the Maori's eating habits. Whitby 006

Mixed reaction, some enjoyed it more than others. Comments included some disappointment at the disjointed style, and that the ending lacked some resolution. All enjoyed learning more about NZ's history. Ashburton 022

Thought [Author] did a great job bringing to life early settler life in New Zealand and Australia. Lively discussion on attitudes and morality in early days and now. Also regarding Maori and European relationships. A very good read. Whangamata 001



WANG 001
A brutal time in our history, but a good read.
While all the members found the history woven through the story of great interest, not everyone was convinced by the story telling. Knowing that the facts of the main story were accurate was important since it gave context to the more disturbing aspects of the narrative (such as the cannibalism and the overt racism and sexism). It was generally felt that this was a lost opportunity to describe pre-contact Aotearoa/NZ landscape as it would have been strikingly different to Sydney and would have played a tremendous part in Betty's experience. Overall readers found the book enjoyable...
The majority of us enjoyed the book, finding it a fascinating and very well-written account of an aspect of N.Z. history we knew little about.
The group really enjoyed this book, especially the characterisation and the way Kidman was able to write reflecting the language, attitudes, and culture of the times. Sydney itself was a character. We enjoyed too, being able to identify the places and even some of the family names.
We all enjoyed the book and found the history very interesting. The interaction between the fictional and factual elements intrigued us too, and the way Kidman showed us the different viewpoints of Jacky Guard and Betty, without really giving us a definite answer as to whose grievances were the greater.
Two of our group didn't enjoy this at all - too graphic, and the subject matter didn't appeal. Rated 4 because of this - the rest of the group loved it. So well researched, well-written, confronting, thought-provoking, inspiring and informative. We all now want to go to Kakapo Bay to visit the site and the cemetery. Great characters that we enjoyed discussing, and the ever moving plot which we loved. We now feel we have more understanding of those times - found the cannibalism and violence confronting but knew we had to forge ahead as the book was so compelling.
Great N.Z. historical fiction!
TAKA 001
We enjoyed the book, learning about the history, and the experience of being a woman at that time. The violence and the whaling was very disturbing to read about, but was a reflection of the time.
NAP 024
Everyone enjoyed this book. Some had never heard of the Guard family. Provided a lot of discussion. One member had a great great grandfather who'd been a whaler during that era.
Mixed feedback. Some loved it and the fact that it was based on a true story. A chance to learn more about the history of N.Z. that we were not taught in school.
Some thought it was a good read - others not so much. Some found it quite confusing as it jumped backwards and forwards in time. The ending was disappointing.
Most agreed it was a good read that kept up interest even though the telling was divided between characters. Well researched depiction of the harshness of that era as well as the courage.
Most enjoyed but not all. Great research; vivid and brutal descriptions.
AUCK 272
One was put off by the title and the cover, but ended up really enjoying the book. Great insight into whaling days.
Enjoyed by all - especially as history on our doorstep with proximity to Port Underwood.
Some members thought it was a good read, others not so much. Some found it quite confusing as it jumped backwards and forwards in time. The historical context was interesting but we felt the ending was disappointing.