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

Personal Relationships

Personal Relationships. Three novels of 1962-3 may be grouped together as remarkably plainspoken studies of personal relationships among the young. They are Point of Origin, 1962, by Redmond Wallis; As Short a Spring, 1963, by R. Casey; and A Barbarous Tongue, 1963, by Marilyn Duckworth. The first two are page 125 set in Christchurch, the third in Wellington and Dunedin, at the present day. All three are linked in manner and preoccupations with the contemporary British and American novel about the educated delinquent fringe, evoking the bar and the coffee-bar world of beards and jeans. Casey's novel has a crackling zest, but not enough discipline to shape his bubbling ideas. His student hero zooms from one disaster to the next; he fails his exams, drops the china, falls in love, gets mixed up in a hospital ward. There's a character called Lieutenant Snoughlleby-Gadzer, and a very real and likeable heroine, too good for the fictional company she keeps. "A handyman's attempt at Lucky Jimmery" is one reviewer's comment {Landfall, March 1964).

Wallis's Point of Origin has the same surface glitter, but more depth. Its affinity is with the novels of Iris Murdoch, with philosophical explorations embodied in personal relationships and brought to focus in a detailed sequence of dangerous action. Peter Hennessy, a working hero with a gift for mechanical inventions, meets Gillian Sedgley, of one of the Canterbury families "off the first four boats". In their love story Wallis studies our traditional sexual codes, our class frictions, and the meaning of existence for the contemporary young unbeliever. He expects his readers to be literate and prepared "to speculate about themselves"; those who are will be well rewarded.