‘Quirky, rich, eccentric,’ is how Margaret Atwood responded in the New York Times when this dazzling novel was first published in 1979. Through the eyes of a woman of myriad personalities – ventriloquist, gossip and writer – Janet Frame playfully explores the process of writing fiction: the avoidances, interruptions and irrelevancies, as well as a teasing blurring between fact and fiction. The landscape of the Maniototo becomes the ‘bloody plain’ of the imagination, as the narrator tells us about her marriages and children, her friends (real and imagined), her travels (between New Zealand and the United States) and her stay in the house left in her care by friends travelling in Italy. She must face the reality of death as well as probe the authenticity of the modern world.
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