A sad tale of the librarian who stopped reading New Zealand fiction

As New Zealand Book Month comes to an end and I read of the death of Barbara Anderson I have realised that I used to read a lot of New Zealand fiction with Barbara Anderson being one of my favourites, alongside Fiona Kidman, Barbara Else, Marilyn Duckworth, and Patricia Grace, and Shonagh Koea. They were all women writers and they were all writing about things that were meaningful for me at the time: home, family, relationships and children.  Every now and then I branched out into the male domain and enjoyed the likes of Witi Ihimaera, Owen Marshall and Jack Lasenby but would then scuttle back to my old favourites.

Over the years I have read and enjoyed Charlotte Grimshaw and Charlotte Randall but some of my early experiences with newer writers have not been so enjoyable. I have found them almost too clever and self-conscious, and sadly I have gradually given up.

So, here is the challenge!  Help me get back into reading New Zealand writers, get my literary juices flowing again and let me know who I just have to read.

21 thoughts on “A sad tale of the librarian who stopped reading New Zealand fiction

  1. Laraine 26 March 2013 / 2:23 pm

    ” … almost too clever and self-conscious.” Hmm. Is that a nice way of expressing my own opinion (which is basically that I find most New Zealand writers for adults downright pretentious)?

    • jane 27 March 2013 / 8:43 am

      Probably not Laraine – I think I have just chosen a few duds over time and am really keen to regain my mojo regarding NZ fiction. I beleive there are some fantastic authors out there and for some reason I have just missed them lately.

    • jane 27 March 2013 / 8:34 am

      Thanks Donna, have enjoyed some of Emily Perkins although gave up on The Forrests.

  2. tomandemma 26 March 2013 / 2:46 pm

    Here’s books I’ve read and that aren’t pretentious – another vote for Rachael King (I vote Magpie Hall), another vote for Kirsten McDougall, which I’m just almost finished reading. This would be a great one to start with because it’s short episodes so really super easy to get into and the writing’s great and at times unexpected, which makes it wonderful.

    Laurence Fearnley – you’re a South Islander so read The Hut Builder at once then take a drive out to Mount Cook. That will be glorious. Also, Ediwn + Matilda (same author) will break your heart.

    Janet Frame’s autobiography series and Owls Do Cry – especially the later if you love vintage houses.

    Coming Up Roses by Sarah Laing – the book I judge all other short story collections by.

    • Laraine 26 March 2013 / 4:45 pm

      I tried Owls Do Cry, tomandemma. Couldn’t get on with it. I did, however, manage to force myself to finish it. The same went for the bone people.

      I think I’ll stick with Margaret Mahy et al. 🙂

      I like writing that is both beautiful but plain (that is, doesn’t draw attention to itself). Think Geraldine McCaughrean.

      • linda blackwell 26 March 2013 / 5:58 pm

        I loved the bone peaple.We are all different thank god it would be boring if we all liked the same kind of book.I think the older writers are the best,i am not into these new young ones.

    • jane 27 March 2013 / 8:38 am

      I really liked The Bone people too, although most people I talked to didn’t. Reading can so often be about how you are feeling at the time, where you are in your life, stress levels etc. I loved Janet Frames autobiography too. It looks like the vote is going out for Kirsten McDougall! Not too sure about Laurence Fearney – is she heavily into description as I struggle a bit with that – prefer plenty of dialogue.

      • linda blackwell 27 March 2013 / 12:35 pm

        I agree with you jane,it is about how you are feeling at the time.I have wasted so much money reserving books i want to read, then when i wait ages to get them,i no longer have that desire to read them.

      • jane 27 March 2013 / 4:06 pm

        Very frustrating, I feel your pain Linda.

  3. Jeremy Hansen 26 March 2013 / 2:50 pm

    Carl Shuker’s books, The Lazy Boys and The Method Actors, are full-on and fantastic. And I’m looking forward to reading Anti-Lebanon, just out. http://carlshuker.com/

    • jane 27 March 2013 / 8:39 am

      Never even considered him before! How dreadful. My reserve list is growing….

    • jane 27 March 2013 / 8:41 am

      Hmmmm. Does anyone really really like post modernism? (I’m not even sure I know what this would mean in a novel?) Perhaps you can enlighten me!

      • Grizz Cattermole 27 March 2013 / 3:17 pm

        It’s very post-modern in its structure, with the novel swiftly changing time, location and character, making the narrative hard to follow for this reader. I could forgive this if the structure suited some kind of purpose, but as far as I can tell, Shuker’s merely flexing his literary chops by messing about with form, a gimmick which caused me to give up in frustration halfway through. The Lazy Boys, on the other hand, is among my favourite NZ novels, so clearly he is an author of formidable range.

      • jane 27 March 2013 / 4:04 pm

        might not be the one for me then, however it is interesting that he has such a range of style. I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing….perhaps a writer who doesn’t quite know what ‘type’of writer he actually is and therefore – untrustworthy…or someone who is willing to give different things a go and risk losing his readership?

  4. robertafsmith 26 March 2013 / 10:18 pm

    I love Laurence Fearnley’s writing – Butler’s Ringlet, Edwin and Matilda and The Hut Builder are all great books.

    • jane 27 March 2013 / 8:41 am

      Another one for my list Roberta.

    • jane 27 March 2013 / 4:05 pm

      yep, really enjoyed Mr Gee, especially the children’s material. And – the votes for Laurence Fearnley continue to grow!

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