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

Ruth Park

Ruth Park. Ruth Park was born and educated in the King Country, became a journalist in Auckland, and later moved to Sydney. Her story may be read in her autobiography, Drums Go Bang. It was with two novels born of her bread-line poverty in the Sydney slums that she made her name, Harp in the South, and Poor Man's Orange. In these, what impressed was the emotional turbulence, the rhetorical colour and drama of the life depicted. Each had a strikingly sordid background, quite unfamiliar to us dwellers in respectable suburbs, and each had at its centre an agonised but lovable girl. In addition, Irish turns of speech, Irish faith and fury, gave the books a Celtic lift.

That was Sydney, where anything may happen. When however, Ruth Park applies the same formula to Te Kano, a small King Country town, in The Witch's Thorn, 1951, and Pink Flannel, 1955, page 91 her falsifying exaggerations are exposed. Our submerged tenth have less roaring extrovert eloquence than the Sydney slums. These novels have exuberance, but they are frankly exploiting, though there are moments of perception in Pink Flannel, especially about the child Jenny and the experience of being a girl in the 1920s. Both novels suffer from the author's insistently effervescent style. (A review of The Witch's Thorn in Landfall for June 1953 should provoke argument.)