02 July

2 July 1920

2 Portland Villas, Hampstead - London

The case of Miss Jane Mander is very different. Her Story of a New Zealand River, which takes four hundred and thirty-two pages of small type to tell, has none of Miss Symonds' sophistication, or European atmosphere. The scene is laid in the back blocks of New Zealand, and, as is almost invariably the case with novels that have a colonial setting, in spite of the fact that there is frequent allusion to the magnificent scenery, it profiteth us nothing. ‘Stiff laurel-like puriris stood beside the drooping lace fringe of the lacy rimu; hard blackish kahikateas brooded over the oak-like ti-toki with its lovely scarlet berry.' What picture can that possibly convey to an English reader? What emotion can it produce? But that brings us to the fact that Miss Jane Mander is immensely hampered in her writing by her adherence to the old unnecessary technical devices - they are no more - with which she imagines it necessary to support her story. If one has the patience to persevere with her novel, there is, under all the false wrappings, the root of something very fresh and sturdy. She lacks confidence and the courage of her opinions; like the wavering, fearful heroine, she leans too hard on England. There are moments when we catch a bewilderingly vivid glimpse of what she really felt and knew about the small settlement of people in the lumber-camp, but we suspect that these are moments when she is off her guard. Then her real talent flashes out; her characters move quickly, almost violently; we are suddenly conscious what an agony, what an anguish it was to Bruce when he felt one of his drunken fits coming on; or The Boss reveals his extraordinary simplicity when he tells his wife he thought she'd been unfaithful to him for years. [Review of The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander, Athenaeum,  9 July 1920]