The Settler's Plot: How Stories Take Place in New Zealand
by Alex Calder (Auckland University Press 2011)
ISBN 978 1 86940 488 8, paperback, 312pp $45
The Settler’s Plot is a fresh and engaging study of the relationship between literature and place in New Zealand. Drawing on an engrossing selection of documentary and literary sources, from F E Maning and Herbert Guthrie-Smith to Mansfield, Sargeson, Curnow and Frame, Alex Calder explores the places our writers have turned to most often: the beach, the farm, the bush, the suburb and ‘overseas’. He connects the history of Pākehā settlement to the way stories take shape in these settings through fascinating and unpredictable readings of some of our greatest works of literature.
Reviewer Nicholas Reid. calls A Settler's Plot "a book of outstandingly good socio-literary essays". I agree, and recommend the rest of Reid's review as well as the book, to anyone interested in New Zealand literature in general and of course in Janet Frame's place in the canon in particular.
The last chapter in the book is called 'Placing Frame' and appears to me as a refreshing and intelligent perspective on Janet Frame's work. It was satisfying to note that Calder has identified the posthumous autism 'diagnosis' of Frame by Hilary Stace and Sarah Abrahamson as "no more scientific than a diagnosis of witchcraft".
Highly recommended. And reading this book is a fine way for me to celebrate Janet Frame's birthday.
Happy Birthday Janet!