Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


Ted Dawe’s Latest Novel Traces The Dark Side Of Being Special

Celebrated Kiwi novelist Ted Dawe, whose previous book Into The River won the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year in 2013, has now published Answering To The Caul.

Andrei Reti is born in a caul (that is, with a membrane over his head). His witchy Aunty Margaret informs the whānau that this means he can never die by drowning.

Andrei’s Māori father hopes he will be an entrepreneur – his Pākehā mother strives to make him a reader. Both of these competing influences are eventually subsumed by the disastrous and tragic legacy of the caul-bearer.

Answering To The Caul follows Andrei as he attempts to make sense of the events in his life. He struggles with his dual cultural background, the series of tragic coincidences that disrupt his belief in the rational, and the personal costs exacted by close relationships.

Dawe says: “I wanted to show how the irrational can make sense; how we are shaped by what we read, as well as by what happens to us – and how bravery and heroism in ordinary people can be quiet and virtually invisible.”

Biculturalism and the effects of colonisation are key themes in Dawe’s work. Dawe, who is Pākehā, grew up in Ruatoria moving between te ao Māori and te ao Pākehā.

“An older Māori couple next door called the Arnotts had a grandson about my age whom they were raising. I was given to them every day until I was old enough to start school, and they continued to look after me after I had started. They spoke exclusively in Māori so I learned too.”

Dawe lost his early reo when his whānau moved away from Ruatoria, but regained it as an adult when he became a teacher at Aorere High school.

“I was obsessed by the impact of colonisation on young Māori passing through my classes. I didn't think of it quite in those terms back them, but rather the cultural damage and loss that happened within the education sector and the wider community. One of my main drivers as a writer is to illustrate this process through narrative.”

John Boyne, author of the international best-seller The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, called Into The River “an outstanding piece of world literature”.


Title: Answering To The Caul

Author: Ted Dawe

Publisher: Mangakino University Press


Trim: 198 X 128 (portrait)

ISBN: 978-0-473-52818-8

Extent: 340 pp

Binding: Perfect

Pub date: September 2020

RRP (NZD): $30.00


ISBN: 9780473562410 (Kindle)

ISBN: 9780473562403 (EPUB)

Pub date: February 2021

RRP (NZD): $9.95

  • Ted Dawe is available for interview in English and Te Reo. Review copies and extracts available upon request. Please contact publicist Elizabeth Heritage on 022 652 3981 or
  • Answering To The Caul is available now in libraries and bookshops around Aotearoa New Zealand

Author bio

Ted Dawe is the author of the novels Thunder Road, K Road, And did those feet…, Into the River, Into the World, and Answering to the Caul, and the short story collection Captain Sailorbird and other stories. His stories and essays appear in a number of anthologies.

His NZ national Children and Young Adults book award wins include: Best First Novel, Best YA Novel (twice), and The Inaugural Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award.

In 2014 he was a recipient of the New Zealand Society of Authors’ Waitangi Day Fellowship Awards given for outstanding achievement in literary endeavour. He lives in Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland with his wife and son.


‘There are some things you can never share with another human being. Answering to the caul is one of those.’

It is said that being born in a caul means that you can never die by drowning. Andrei Reti puts this prophesy to the test, time and time again. But there is a price to be paid for each caul intervention.

This is a novel about the dark side of being special. About the war between fact and coincidence. About the things we can never share.

© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Benjamin Ree's The Painter and The Thief

The Norwegian filmmaker had long been fascinated by art thieves who commit high-stakes crimes with a delicate touch when a chance Google search in 2015 uncovered a botched heist in Oslo. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>

Howard Davis: Byrneing Down the House - Spike Lee's American Utopia

Lee does an admirable job capturing Byrne's stunning live performance of his latest album, but the real star of the show is the staging. More>>

Howard Davis: The Phoenix Foundation Friend Ship Tour Docks in Wellington

A sense of local pride was certainly running high at the Opera House on Saturday night, as the lads ran through a tasty little set drawn mostly from their latest album Friend Ship (splash out for Xmas on the shocking pink extra-thick vinyl edition). More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland