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

Light Fiction

Light Fiction. The bread-and-butter of popular fiction publishing continues to be earned by romantic entertainments aimed at women readers, our earliest and longest-lived type of "exploiting" novel. In it, sheep stations, North and South, are still plentiful; the Maori people still have sales-appeal in plot, title, and jacket design; and a rosy glow of unreality suffuses the "enchanted islands", "long white clouds", "blue remembered hills", and "singing tides" of the exotic country which these tale tellers evoke. History is still with us: sometimes a beautiful girl will "cast a shadow over three generations" in the dear old homestead under the elms; sometimes she has a turbulent life among the Wild Whalers at Port Underwood or Te Awaiti; sometimes she is a waif washed ashore on a raft, and roughs it on the goldfields; sometimes she comes fresh from the Old Country to dwell in a "colonial mansion by an enchanted river", meeting there tattooed Maori chiefs, perils and passion, and finally choosing the stockman for her mate; he proves to be, of course, an Earl.

Romances with contemporary settings are less hackneyed. In these, the heroine takes a job in a country store during her university vacation, boards with a Maori family, and marries "an exciting hermit"; or she runs a guest-house for tourists in Fiordland; or she meets some attractive medico on the Voyage Out, and is later rescued by him after hectic adventures with seducers, deserted whares, and old gravel pits in the pine forests. One or two story spinners still offer the old style heroine, ordered by an eccentric will to come "to the colony" (today!) and marry some unknown bronzed "colonial" who, of course, turns out on her arrival to have other ideas. One heroine, the spoilt child of wealthy, class-conscious parents, falls for the unpretentious man at the service-station; another settles for a country school teacher. Thus is democracy asserted.