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Reviewed by:
  • New Zealand Fiction, and: Critical Essays on the New Zealand Short Story, and: Australian Fiction
  • Shaun F.D. Hughes
Joseph Jones and Johanna Jones. New Zealand Fiction. Twayne's World Authors Series 643. Boston: Twayne, 1983. 114 pp. $20.95.
Cherry Hankin, ed. Critical Essays on the New Zealand Short Story. Exeter: Heineman, 1982. 186 pp. pb. $9.95.
Joseph Jones and Johanna Jones. Australian Fiction. Twayne's World Authors Series 735. Boston: Twayne, 1983, 177 pp. $18.95.

The husband and wife team of Joseph and Johanna Jones has been among the pioneer North American scholars and writers committed to bringing the particular beauties of Commonwealth literature to the attention of a wider audience. In particular, they have been interested in the literature of New Zealand and Australia. As American observers, they are not necessarily subject either to the same blindspots or to the same cultural pressures that condition the approach of the home-grown critic. Their volume on New Zealand fiction is an excellent example of the value of an outsider's point of view. The book is unfortunately brief, only 88 pages of text, but it provides the balanced view of New Zealand fiction that is so often lacking in surveys of this material by New Zealanders. The opening two chapters deal with the literary scene in the young colony, such as the early journals, the journals designed as novels (for example, Henry Butler Stoney, Taranaki: A Tale of the War and Mrs. J. E. Aylmer, Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand), as well as the subsequent novelistic enterprises in the country up until the Great War. These chapters are fair and to the point, not hesitating to recognize the failures of nerve and tone on the part of some of these writers, but neither shying away from distributing praise where it is due, to the stories of A. A. Grace or to the novels of William Satchell and George Chamier. Next, the Joneses tackle the difficult problem of where to place Katherine Mansfield and solve it by assigning [End Page 471] her a position outside the New Zealand literary schema in a chapter entitled "Expatriates." Katherine Mansfield is a New Zealand writer in much the same sense that T. S. Eliot is an American poet, and it is perhaps significant that neither of these authors established a school either in their adopted countries or at home although both were admired from early in their careers. Although New Zealand can be said to have provided Katherine Mansfield with a source of inspiration, it was a New Zealand that was already in the past both in time and in temperament when she sat down to write about it. Along with the work of Katherine Mansfield, the novels of other expatriate writers such as Jane Mander and Robin Hyde (Iris G. Wilkinson) are discussed. The fiction of the interwar years is dealt with in a chapter "Home Front," a little too briefly perhaps, for the depression and the ensuing economic hardships played a critical role in the transition from colonial to modern literary awareness in New Zealand as elsewhere. Despite the fact that Ngaio Marsh gets some well-deserved treatment, one misses any reference to the flourishing short story, uneven though it may have been in quality at this time. This genre was sufficiently robust to be collected in anthologies such as Oliver N. Gullespie, ed., New Zealand Short Stories and C. R. Allen, Tales by New Zealanders. It deserves to have some attention accorded to it. The first section to deal with the postwar scene covers literature about and by Maori writers, and this chapter is once again really too brief to do justice to its subject matter. Certainly, this is a topic that has been dealt with succinctly by other writers, but it is a topic that actually deserves a book-length study parallel in treatment and scope to that of J. J. Healy, Literature and the Aborigine in Australia 1770-1975. "Fretful Sleepers" looks at the remaining postwar fiction, and besides the obligatory analysis of work of writers such as Janet Frame and Maurice Gee, attention is also given to novels...


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pp. 471-475
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