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


page 7


The origin of this book is work done for the Council of Adult Education in the Wellington University district over the last ten years. In lectures and discussion courses with groups in town and country I have found not only an interest in New Zealand novels, but a need for an informative guide which will enable readers to pursue their own paths with more assurance.

Our pre-eminent critical text is E. H. McCormick's New Zealand Literature, A Survey (1959), to which frequent reference is made in these pages. Mr McCormick, however, deals with the whole body of our literature, and in discussing the novel has no space to spare for minor writers, nor for detailed analyses of the work of major ones. He has necessarily been highly selective, especially in his treatment of the fiction of the last twenty years. A wider range of material will be found here. In particular, attention has been devoted to early novels not now accessible to readers, and to fiction at popular levels. The aim has been to give a reasonably comprehensive picture of the topics and the techniques of New Zealand novels from 1860 to 1965.

With the needs of the general reader in mind, I have made the presentation conversational and provocative rather than academic, hoping thereby to stimulate argument, discussion, and further exploration. The body of the book consists of seven chapters on the development and nature of our fiction. An appendix offers suggestions for the critical dissection of six well known novels. For the use of members of the groups organised by the Adult Education Service, a set of topics for study is also included.

It was necessary to define what was to be considered, for my purpose, as a New Zealand novel. A decision on this matter is not as easy as it may seem, as will be obvious from the discussion in the opening chapter. Reluctantly I decided that the non-New Zealand fiction of New Zealand authors would be excluded.

Dates of publication are noted in the text; dates of authors, where available, will be found in the index. The quotations which head the chapters are taken from The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse (1960).

In this second edition I have added a chapter bringing the discussion up to the end of 1965. In the notes for critical analysis, Bill Pearson's Coal Flat and Graham Billing's Forbush and the Penguins replace two of the texts of the first edition; there are also minor revisions throughout. Page numberings coincide with those of the first edition up to the end of chapter seven (page 112).