The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
Technique. The technique is that of first-person narration, so that the prose has to carry not only the story, but the impression of Anna's personality and of the personalities of others. Anna comes over clearly, with perhaps too much confessional intimacy. No one else is as plain, but this may be because Anna is interested only in her own reactions, and in the children. The children are masterly; in choric echo, in repeated phrases, incidents and suggestions they are revealed individually while making the musical continuo for Anna's discovery of the key to life.
To order this tumbling chaotic material, Sylvia Ashton-Warner has framed the novel firmly within the round of the seasons, tidied up its ending with a return to the opening pages, and woven the whole together with recurring quotations from the poetry which she, or Anna, or both, love because it expresses their need. The chapter headings, the musical and poetic references, the thematic Maori conversations not only provide the emotional force of the novel, but are elements in its structure.