OPO The Peace Monster
What if 'Jaws' had been a dolphin?
A remote post-war New Zealand community is invaded by a lone dolphin who becomes a huge tourist attraction. Fearless, totally trusting, Opo causes a massive outbreak of harmony. For some she promises economic profit, for others she is a prophet of peace and a few feel threatened … When Opo is killed the locals conspire to cover it up. But her legacy lives on. More
What if 'Jaws' had been a dolphin?
A story of war, peace, fear, love and tourism.
A decade after the Second World War, the simple life of a small community in New Zealand's far north is radically changed by the arrival in its harbour of a 'wild' dolphin. First she befriends the locals then she becomes the greatest tourist attraction New Zealand has ever known.
Thousands make the pilgrimage over rough roads just to be with her. She is variously seen as 'something nice for the kiddies', an agent for great prosperity, the reincarnation of a legendary ocean taniwha and a miracle-worker creating an experience of peace never before thought possible.
For a few, however, such a miracle is impossible. Peace is a threat. The message of love is hateful and its messenger may not survive.
This is a startling first novel from playwright, screenwriter and theatre critic John Smythe. It is based on the actual appearance, in the mid-1950s in the Hokianga Harbour, of ‘Opo the friendly dolphin’ who was adopted by the small settlement of Opononi. The whole country mourned her untimely death in the wake of just one miraculous summer.
Extracts from Reviews of the print version of The Peace Monster (published by Vintage - Random Century NZ - April 1991)
It is a very satisfying novel indeed. ... Smythe writes sensitively and with sympathy about the disparate groups of Opononi, showing great skill in moving the story easily from group to group. ... In all the characters are well and perceptively drawn.
EVENING POST, 5 April 1991
[Opo] becomes a national myth, then a national talisman. Children delight in her; a famous wrestler grapples with her; even the Ministry of Works starts upgrading the Hokianga highway. Meanwhile attendant humans sort out their own relationships. A university drop-out, a girl meeting childhood's end, a boy and a WW2 veteran facing nightmares: Opo affects them all.
THE DOMINION SUNDAY TIMES, 12 May 1991
It has all the ingredients of a well deserved success … Scenes change with the deftness of good film editing …
THE DOMINION, 13 April 1991
The writing is at its best in the lyrical passages that reflect the intelligence and spirituality of the dolphin. Wide research, particularly of Maori myth and local legends, ensure a sound basis for both the events chronicled and the themes ... The second half is absorbing and one is carried along to a gripping climax. The resolution of the final conflict is particularly intriguing.
BAY OF PLENTY TIMES, 25 May 1991
Smythe has researched the event well and throughout the novel he shows a genuine warmth towards the people and the land of the Hokianga. ... The book has almost all the ingredients of a fine novel - interesting characters, a striking and historically rich setting and a fascinating central event.
NZ HERALD, 8 June 1991
The Peace Monster is sure to be a popular book ... This is an extraordinarily warm story. Smythe writes with a vivid clarity. He has picked a topic that is sure to arouse a lot of interest with the young and the old. This book has all the ingredients of a New Zealand best seller.
GISBORNE HERALD, 14 June 1991
People see [Opo] in the light of their own hopes and aspirations, everyone dealing with it in their differing ways, and this is what creates an interesting tale. … To the Maori people she is a taniwha, to some a friend, to many a source of increased income, to others a threat to their livelihood. … Smythe's vivid portrayal of these characters reflects his experience as a scriptwriter. … This is a book many people will enjoy.
SOUTHLAND TIMES, 17 August 1991
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