The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
Writing in The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse, Allen Curnow remarks, "The thirties released—or tapped—a spring. It seemed that New Zealand had its own small audience, alert for new poetry. It began to look to its own creative resources, not this time to provide it with something national to brag about, but to satisfy a real hunger of the spirit."
These words are likewise true of our fiction; three novelists made their appearance in the mid-1930s whose work is historically of major importance and intrinsically still worth our serious attention. All three reveal a "real hunger of the spirit", and go beyond the appeal of the merely national. All three are novelists of social protest, their voices gaining power from the experience of the depression years. John Lee, Robin Hyde and John Mulgan, in spite of great differences in technical achievement, shared the compassionate anger of their time, interpreted their world, and interested both the local and the overseas audience. Only John Mulgan, who spent his twenties outside this country, escaped the faults of provincialism; but all three writers tackled topics of human, rather than colonial interest. With their generation our fiction may be said to have grown up.