The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
The New Zealand Novel?
The New Zealand Novel? In Parson's Packet some years ago, A. R. D. Fairburn drew up a "Sketch-plan for the Great New Zealand Novel". (Text now available in The Kiwi Laughs, ed. J. C. Reid, 1960.) This skims delightfully over the stereotypes to date— the Irish, remittance men, drinking, madness, adolescent agonisings, getting religion and losing it, "Hobson Street Hattie" who has a heart of gold, sensitive intellectuals writing sensitive novels, the war, spiritual crises thereby induced, rural life, Mother Nature, Art and so on. Fairburn mocks at our sentimentalities about "simple ordinary people, their joys and their sorrows, their tears and their smiles". It is a well-aimed little jest.
That was in 1950. Since 1955, however, there has been a major breakthrough in fiction. While the established writers, Courage, Davin, Guthrie Wilson, continued to publish, several new names appeared. Janet Frame, Ian Cross, Ruth France, M. K. Joseph, Sylvia Ashton-Warner have all produced work which is notable by any standards. In addition, 1959-60 alone provided some first novels of promise. Fairburn's Sketch-Plan still has application to much of our current material, but some recent New Zealand novels at least would lie beyond the reach of his mockery. The tide began to run strongly in 1957, with Ian Cross's The God Boy and Janet Frame's Owls Do Cry.