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Ghost Town

Abstract A hometown is a thing full of horrors. Ghosts line the footpaths like spectators at an ANZAC Day parade. They leap from thickets and pounce from suburban ranch sliders like tom cats. These ghosts have been waiting for you. There are things they need you to remember. When David Wrigley returns to Cambridge, a town he thought he’d left behind him forever, he finds the ghosts are out in force. He stumbles on a note in his mother’s garage, tightly folded and hot to the touch, that sets him off in pursuit of the memory of Jacob Avonlea, a friend from the past who he has never been able to leave behind. But the currents of memory are unpredictable, and the waters and riverbanks are crowded with the dead. David and Jacob’s friendship, which crackled with a boyish intensity and a surfeit of secrets, was just the first of many stories tussling for attention. There is a family history – a fifty year old cataclysm that destroyed his brother. The grotesque origins of the school that nurtured David and murdered Jacob. The eccentric founder who brought with him from the mill towns of Manchester a fear of women and a predilection for young boys. And then there is the land – the meanders of the Waikato and the eruptions that diverted it from one coast to another, leaving forgotten oxbows in its wake. The roaming forests of kahikateas that followed the river and the wetlands, and once dominated these landscapes but have now all but disappeared. The rich farmland that has usurped the forests and slowly leaks poison into the soil and the waterways. Ghost Town is a psychogeographer’s novel. A novel in which the landscape and the people that live and act upon it are inseparable, the ghosts of one haunting the present of the other. It is a story of colonial men, locked into cycles of violence and destruction. The story of the silence they have inflicted upon themselves and on their children, and ultimately on the landscape itself, as the forests retreat, the birdsong hushed. As we drift downstream, at every bend of the river we can see through the ever-widening gaps in the trees, glimpses of lost futures– that different species of ghost. A free and autonomous Māori Waikato. A spring-fed lake full of eels and koura. Five hundred year old kahikateas growing arrow-straight into the distant blueness. An egalitarian, socialist Aotearoa. A family man gathering his sons into his arms. A man of forty six raising his eyes towards the swaying tree-tops and starting to sing.  
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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