The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
No Remittance. No Remittance, 1959, abandons the method of omniscience adopted in The Sullen Bell, and confines its presentation to the slangy New Zealandese of a first-person teller. This is for Davin a new departure. If James Joyce lay behind Cliffs of Fall, Joyce Cary—a great friend of Davin's—lies behind No Remittance. Gentleman Dick is a seedy sub-hero, a rascal, artful, a failure, "a remittance man without &. remittance", such as Cary could draw well. He leaves an England where his talents are too well understood, and comes to New Zealand, marrying into a small farming Irish Catholic family. An outsider in religion and in race, he can record his observations with some objectivity, enabling the author to dwell once more upon this never-forgotten childhood experience.
The tension has gone out of the struggles recorded in Roads from Home, however, partly because this narrator is old, and looking back not in anger, but in whining self pity. Technique here is almost too smooth. But what emerges, beyond another quite acute rendering of the social pattern of New Zealand life? Davin's major difficulty is that one cannot handle the deepest issues in the slack colloquial medium he has chosen, unless one is a masterhand at selection, as Frank Sargeson is. In any case, prolonged to the length of a novel the mannerism is tiresome. What inner necessity created this novel? It could have been an exciting psychological study, but the theme never quite lives in the story. Perhaps Davin will put his technical skill to good use in a really fine serious novel at his next attempt.