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

Mixed Bag

Mixed Bag. The work of Phillip Wilson is difficult to assess. His short stories {Some are Lucky, 1960) reveal him as a serious artist, page 119 but none of his three novels is fully satisfying. Beneath the Thunder, 1963, studies a post-war marriage in a rehabilitation farm settlement in the Waikato. Pete, who has had a bad war, is at odds with his wife Glenda, and retreats to an intrigue with Poppy, wife of his Maori neighbour Joe. A bush journey, a burning house and a thunderstorm bring the drama to exploding point. Ultimately Pete breaks through to his "still centre", and there is hope that the adoption of his child by Poppy will redeem his sterile marriage. Pacific Flight, 1964, studies another love triangle exposed to war stress. The Outcasts, 1965, exploits rather over-emphatically the theme of colour.

Pat Booth's work also is variable. His Long Night Among the Stars, 1961, set in Australia, was a prize-winner in the Otago Daily Times centennial competition; Footsteps in the Sea, 1964, is an onslaught on New Zealand small town life, written with a zestful exaggeration that is reminiscent of John Guthrie's The Little Country. Dick Brenton, returning after five years' absence in Malaya, "sees ourselves as others see us". Booth lashes out in many directions at once; the RSA, the JCs, the football club, Rotary, the pub, and the local "ladies" all come in for attacks so savage that when in the end Brenton finds himself at one with his fellow citizens in a sequence of violent action, it is difficult to accept his acceptance. "He sneered at their standards, but would coast with them." Booth's third story, Dear Chevvy, 1965, is a lively entertainment about vintage cars.