The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
Wednesday's Children. Robin Hyde was always in peril on the border between reality and fantasy. Whimsy, especially in imagery or would-be poetic flights, disfigures her fiction again and again. Only in Wednesday's Children, however, did she allow fantasy to be the basis of a whole work. Many readers find that they cannot page 58 enjoy it for this reason. Yet according to Winston Rhodes,14 it is in this story—her first straight novel—that she came nearest to saying what she wanted to say, to expressing her longing for a free community of human beings, whose potentialities would not be smothered by the social necessities, nor "eaten up by the locusts of other people's dependence". You may not agree with the verdict that the book is her best, but you will agree that seldom has so vivid a picture been painted in our fiction of Auckland and its surroundings, of the harbour, the gulls, the sand dunes and convolvulus, the Bay hovels, the slum dwellers. The emphasis of this book is on freedom in the personal life, on vision, love, longing.
The story is of Wednesday, half-sister of Ronald Gilfillan, a comfortable conforming New Zealander with "a quarter-acre section neatly fenced". Having consulted Madame Mystera, a fortune-teller of Freemans Bay, and been told that fortune, lovers and children are ahead of her, Wednesday takes a ticket in a lottery. She wins £25,000.
It is impossible to indicate what happens next without spoiling the first impact of the book. Enough to say that reality and fantasy become inextricably mixed, for Wednesday as well as the reader, and that there are poetry, humour, unexpectedness and delight.
At the end Wednesday endeavours to explain it all in a letter, from which the remark quoted earlier about the "second selves of truth" was taken. "Most surface selves are such lies," writes Wednesday— speaking for the author. Wednesday's Children is, like Check to Your King and Passport, a search for personal truth.