Harry Gill, a moderately successful writer of historical fiction, has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship - a 'living memorial' to the poet, Margaret Rose Hurndell. He arrives in the small French village of Menton, where Hurndell once lived and worked, to write. But the Memorial Room is not suitable - it has no electricity or water. Hurndell never wrote here, though it is expected of Harry.
Janet Frame's previously unpublished novel draws on her own experiences in Menton, France as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow. It is a wonderful social satire, a send-up of the cult of the dead author, and - in the best tradition of Frame - a fascinating exploration of the complexity and the beauty of language.
In the Memorial Room
Today I received word that my application for the Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship had been accepted and that I am to be next year's Fellow. The Committee would like me to visit Wellington for the presentation ceremony early in October, and I am to leave for France by a ship of the Paradise Line in early December.
Although I am not quite sure why I applied for the Fellowship I'm looking forward to travelling, although indeed I am not a traveller and my first voyage out to New Zealand when I was nine years old, in 1950, gave me enough experience, I felt, to last a lifetime. The money from the Fellowship, however, will give me a chance to write a different kind of novel from my first two which have given me the reputation of being an 'historical' novelist. Wairau Days might just be called an historical novel, but I did feel that New Families, with its emphasis on the private lives of the characters, might not have been...
For readers who crave unconventional stories, piercing prose, and peculiar, sharply drawn characters, In the Memorial Room should garner its inimitable author new admirers while further establishing her reputation with already devoted fans.
(Reviewed by Suzanne Reeder).
Full Review (1012 words).
In Janet Frame's posthumously published novel In the Memorial Room, New Zealand writer Harry Gill is awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship, which affords him the opportunity to work and live for six months in Menton, France. This novel is based on Frame's own experiences in Menton as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow in 1974. One of New Zealand's most prestigious literary awards, the Mansfield Fellowship—currently the New Zealand Post Mansfield Prize—has supported many notable writers for more than 40 years.
Katherine Mansfield was born as Kathleen Beauchamp in Wellington, New Zealand in 1888. She died of tuberculosis in France in 1923. Known primarily for her short fiction, her collections include In a German ...
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