The New Zealand Novel 1860-1965
Women in the Family
Women in the Family. Quite a fresh track has been followed by Grace Phipps, whose first two stories present with a keen eye the minor excitements of the domestic round. Marriage with Eve, 1955, is a series of sketches rather than a novel, a fault which is not remedied in The Women of the Family, 1956, by the addition of a perfunctory plot. Grace Phipps's real achievement is her capturing of the unsentimental, humorous, native-born flavour of feminine life in the dormitory suburbs. After an excursion into an impossible daydream story, she returns to Eve's growing family in Concerning Eve, 1959, not however with the gaiety of her first portrayal.
A North Islander with a similar light touch in sketches of family affairs is Eva Burfield. Yellow Kowhai, 1957, is a love story rendered page 87 mostly in dialogue, with a refreshing absence of scenery in spite of the title and the dust cover, and with some well-drawn children. A Chair to Sit On, 1958, shows assorted, quite likely boarders in Mrs Daw-lish's guesthouse at Napier, working out their personal destinies during Christmas week. Again, a feature is the use of dialogue.
Jean Hill has written two novels; Sun at Noon, 1956, brings an English girl out to New Zealand adventure. There are some acid detached observations upon us colonials, and some neat genre painting, such as the account of the local competitions, and the dances in the district hall, and the A. & P. show. Her work has a religious trend, being related in this way to the preaching fiction of an earlier time, and, like it, does not really transmute its ideas into art.
Finally, mention must be made of Henrietta Mason, whose first novel White Orchid, 1953, tells of a New Zealand girl's experiences in the New Hebrides as governess to the children of a mixed French-Polynesian marriage. The heroine is well drawn, and the background is unusual, though the authenticity is hard to judge; the plot is, to say the least, eventful. A later novel, Fool's Gold, 1960, is historical romance set in Hokitika in the 1860s. An adventurous woman looks back on some very melodramatic experiences of the gold rush days.