"THE LITTLE COUNTRY."
NOTABLE NEW ZEALAND NOVEL
While New Zealanders arc waiting for the novel of their country, their novelists arc trying harder to supply it, and in the process the scope of our fiction is being widened and its quality improved. "The Little Country," by John Guthrie, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons, London, is a very welcome addition to the list, for if has marked general merit and qualities that have not yet appeared —or at any rati; not in much measure — in our fiction. "John Guthrie" is the pen-name of Mr. John Brodic, a Taranakj boy who graduated at Canterbury College,' represented Taranaki and the New "Zealand University in Rugby, and took ii]) journalism as a career. An injury on' the football field led to a long illness, which culminated in the loss of a leg, and "The Little Country" was written between operations. As an acquaintance said to Dr. Johnson on a famous occasion, cheerfulness will break into philosophy, and much Cheerfulness broke into Mr. Brodie's ordeal of pain. "The Little Country" is the brightest novel that New Zealand lias yet produced. It has much of what our fiction has hitherto had only in little, wit and humour. Again and again the reader's attention is arrested by a telling description or comment, such as the passage in the description of Paradise Bay (New Plymouth*, which has the "Finest" this and that:
With a touculnc faith in their bay, which should at least hnve produced the finest oil ia Hi." southern hemisphere, the inhaMtants have bought the shares. Hut *'> far the rivers o£ petroleum have only trickled instead of Howlnß in a mlgntj cush, and in certain oil bearing areas an to be seen Iho remains of. tall deal derrick-. monumental tombstones to what at any rate was the finest faith in the world. And frequently the narrative of domestic happenings, the small beer of everyday life, is really funny. Constructionally the story is weak. The narrative is seriously disconnected. The two attractive young people who fall in love and many have no connection with the most interesting character, the middle-aged retired man from New Plymouth who goes to Auckland to look after a property on the North Shore and makes a fortune out of it because a barhour bridge is foreshadowed. The book is a scries of vivid scenes. The New Plymouth man picks up and takes to Auckland a farmer's son who has assaulted his father: we are introduced to an Auckland newspaper office and its ruthless proprietor; we attend a political meeting, a suburban council meeting, and a meeting of the Alexandra League; and we foregather with past and present ThaincsiU's in a gorgeous reunion. The lack of connection is easily forgiven for the real life of the book—for characters like George Ragstoff, the bucolic son of a dairy farmer, and his girl from the neighbouring farm, whose courting is a gem of humour and sentiment; Ernest Glanders, so set in his ways; and Ann Rasher, the sordid old miser. It docs not matter that the Thames celebrations arc quite extraneous to the story; we thoroughly enjoy them. Mr. Brodic writes really well. No other New Zealand novelist lias at once made small everyday things so real and yet kept throughout so fine a stylo, and no one lias achieved his blend of sophistication and sentiment. His pathos is real pathos, and his sense of beauty burns with a true (lame.
The sun shone like a beacon in the blue j of the sky. and a haze drifted between sky nod earth. In the foreground and to the | very curve of the horizon stretched the ■ grass, a green skin of man's grafting on'' the hot, friable soil, from the platform of] a fencing post as jade-green locust sung his thin, metallic song with the howl of the sky for auditorium. 'Die rays of the sun Idazed (.'own nnd up ngnin from (he concrete of the cow yard. The day was a gilt of it hung for the moment, between the eternity of the p.isi and I lie Infinity | of the future, a golden fruit of the present. ISehind the yard the grass sloped down quickly to the river, where willows In their I eaiiii'i'ul humility bowed and trailed the gracious burden of their leaves in the slow; waler. The buck of a sandbank thrust' itself above the surface, gleaming while In i the light of tlint exquisite day. There was n Ha-li of radiant blue as a kiiig.isher I d'aited low over the water. Tiny eddies dimpled the surface of the river as it. curved in silken elegance through the meadows on its journey to the sea. Such a scene lives and it is a notable \ achievement not only to write like this, but to alternate such passages, with authentic humour. Mi. Brodic has j affection for people as well as things. j Mr. Brodie's comments on the peculiarities and rivalries of New Zealand towns will amuse many, and perhaps irritate a few. He has thrown in long passages of local colour, as much as to say: "You can take it or leave it. This is a New Zealand novel, and L am going to give you New Zealand." It is the I real New Zealand and we are grateful, though the story is halted at. times. | What the outside world will say may be another matter, but it is noteworthy, that the book was selected by Mr. L, A. j </. Strong, one of the most prominent of the younger English novelists and critics. ; Mr. Brodic is to be most warmly eon- ! gratulated on his success. He should | go from strength to strength. j
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"THE LITTLE COUNTRY.", Auckland Star, Volume LXVI, Issue 176, 27 July 1935, Supplement
"THE LITTLE COUNTRY." Auckland Star, Volume LXVI, Issue 176, 27 July 1935, Supplement
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