The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
Expatriates Again. The Call Home, 1956, is very uneven, in spite of its deft construction. Norman Grant returns to his half-forgotten homeland in search of emotional and physical health. His sojourn in his North Canterbury parental home traverses his inner seasons as well as the external ones of dry summer, declining autumn, fast-frozen winter, and reviving spring. Other poetic echoes and parallels of imagery attempt to reinforce the impression of depth. Both Norman and the woman he comes to love, Louise, have known failure and loss; they are brought neatly together, each to revive the page 77 other's capacity for love. All the loose threads turn out to have their destinations after all, and Norman at the end can unwind the journey he made at the beginning, having found his traveller's joy. The title The Call Home, then, has a designed ambiguity in keeping with the neat shape of the novel. The material, however, is close to the borderline of sentimental light fiction. The heavy psychologising among the scenery and the sheep fails to carry conviction. There is a great deal more open discussion of sexual matters than surely is customary between men and women in this country. And there is another child, a frightful one called Stella.
Perhaps the most convincing element in the book is the dry, hard observation of life which Grant is able to make by reason of his being an expatriate, at once familiar with and critical of Squatterdom. His father and mother, his sister and brother, are a dismal set, modern versions, it seems, of the displaced unhappy ones in our fiction of the 1900-1930 period. Or should we compare them with Sargeson's hopeless folk in the other island, whom they do resemble in spite of differences of class?
Courage's last two novels have English settings. A critical essay on his New Zealand novels, by R. A. Copland, appeared in Landfall 71, September, 1964.