Title: The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

Author: Joan Stevens

Publication details: Reed Publishing (NZ) Ltd, 1966

Digital publication kindly authorised by: Sylvia Johnston

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965

I, for One . .

I, for One . . . This is a long short story, in which a triumphant change of narrator has been made, Sargeson rejecting his laconic cobbers for the persona of an old maid. The tone is still grim, waspish, stinging suburbia out of its oily satisfactions. This is still a "private vision", for most readers would feel that the heroine is as untypical as the Bills and Teds of the masculine sketches. Katherine, however, unlike the menfolk in Sargeson's earlier work, is not a rebel, but a conformer squeezed into dry spinsterishness by the pressure of middle-class respectability. Since she writes a diary, we explore her from within. This form, and the narrow three-month period which it covers, give the novel concentration and unity. Katherine moves from sentimentality to disillusionment, from being an outsider because she feels there is more in life than she has had, to being an outsider because what life really can be horrifies her. She, for one, has found that life is not the cosy, rosy, predictable affair which the story books suggest, and that people do not necessarily live happily ever after.

The pattern of irony in I, for One ... is complicated, but close and firm. In its small way, the novel is a triumph. (I, for One ... is complete in Landfall for June 1952; published in book form in 1956.)