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Klara Z

Recommendations please---New Zealand Writers

This is an early appeal for ideas---after my lovely trip to Oz, where I discovered the novels of Darcy Niland and Ruth Park, I'm planning a trip to New Zealand in January and want to either take (or buy!) some good novels by NZ writers.

My favourite NZ writer is Katherine Mansfield, and I have thought of 'The Bone People' by Keri Hulme  (also I have read Janet Frame). What I'm looking for is a really seminal 20th century NZ novel and maybe something that's contemporary with Dickens, but perhaps isn't so well known in the UK.

All suggestions welcomed!

Hi Klara,

There are many very good 20th century NZ novelists, but earlier ones generally read a little romantically (not that I have read many (any?)).  One I intend to read soon is by Julius Vogel:  Anno Domini 2000 or Women's Destiny which is a science fiction sort of book with a woman Prime Minister for NZ.  (It all sounds rather prescient.)  I can't think of well-known 19th century novels but Story of a NZ River by Jane Mander (on which the film The Piano was loosely based on) written in 1920 might be interesting for you and is still in print, I think.

Owls do Cry by Janet Frame is probably the seminal NZ 20th century novel.  Also Man Alone by John Mulgan is a book which had enormous influence on others and on our idea of our national psyche as a nation of inhibited (male) loners.  

Otherwise for more modern and well respected writers I would suggest Witi Ihimaera, especially Bulibasha and The Matriarch, Maurice Gee, Maurice Shadbolt, Elizabeth Knox, CK Stead, Lloyd Jones (writer of Booker shortlisted book Mister Pip), and Emily Perkins.  There are many others though.  Maurice Gee may be the easiest for people from overseas as his work is less Maori-oriented than some of the others.  Elizabeth Knox's most famous work, The Vintner's Luck, is set in France and has a large angel as its main character.  Original and readable.  

These are some of the best known writers who may be easy for you to access from overseas.  I hope you enjoy some of them.

Cheers, Caro.
Klara Z

Thanks, Caro---that's lovely and gives me plenty of ideas!

I have read 'Mr Pip' and I enjoyed it very much (I hadn't remembered that he was a NZ writer though.)

Have you read 'The Bone People' or the novel that inspired the film 'Once were Warriors?'

Hello Klara,

I have read The Bone People and liked it a lot.  But it is a long time ago.  There are some parts about child abuse that are rather difficult to read - I didn't mind them but some others here found that part unbearable.  

The other thing that might be difficult is a rather mystical part with Maori elements - you may just wish to skim-read that.  But as I said I read it once about 20 years ago, so my memory of it is not all that strong (stronger than many books, though).  Well worth reading at teh time and I would assume still so now.  

I haven't read any Alan Duff - I don't really like such violence and didn't enjoy the movie (which I just watched at home rather sporadically); I also don't much care for some of the attitudes of Alan Duff himself; perhaps he makes some comments for publicity reasons but he can't be rather offensive.  That doesn't detract from his writing, of course, which I gather is very good.  He is still writing, but we don't seem to hear so much about him now, maybe partly because his ideas about Maori violence have become less controversial over the years.  

Cheers, Caro.
Klara Z

Well,  here I am in NZ!  I found an excellent second hand bookshop in Oamaru (birthplace of Janet Frame) and bought some Maurice Gee and 'Spinster' by Sylvia Ashton Warner. And I bought 'The Vintners Luck' in Dunedin, and am absolutely loving it. Not sure I'll be able to email much from here though, it'll have to wait until I get home on Feb 25th!

Welcome Klara - I'm sure you will have a great trip. If by any chance you pass through AKL airport, please send a PM and will see if we can meet up during transit time. In the meanwhile enjoy the sunshine because this is certainly a 'beaut' time to arrive smilebox

I had forgotten you were on your way here at this time, Klara.  I gather you are making your way northwards, so I hope I didn't miss you coming through The Catlins.  Mot people don't come here, so I suppose not.  We were in Dunedin last Saturday (Masters Games - my husband and son refereeing some soccer).  

I am pleased you're enjoying The Vintner's Luck - we read it as a book club book once and everyone liked it a lot as I recall.  If you have got Plumb by Maurice Gee I would be keen to know how you like it - it is one of my favourite books, and part of a trilogy where the same (roughly) events are seen through three different people's eyes (Plumb, his daughter and his grand-son).

Have a wonderful time here.

Best wishes, Caro.

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