Review of ‘Living in the Maniototo’ by Janet Frame

Janet Frame’s work is interesting, but I don’t always enjoy it. This is the third of her books I’ve read, after Faces in the Water and An Angel at My Table. Sometimes I liked this book, sometimes it seemed obscure, sometimes I found it dull, but nothing about it was predictable and for me that’s a good thing. The ending was brilliant.

Book cover of Living in the Maniototo, showing keys dangling from strings.

The story is told by Mavis, a writer who is invited to stay at the house of a couple who admire her work. She is quite a mischievous, unreliable narrator and you can never be sure which parts of the story are supposed to be real and which are fiction within fiction. There is a lot of commentary about writing, of course, about the author’s native New Zealand and a preoccupation with consumer society. It’s a clever book with some characteristically unusual descriptions, but I don’t think I’d recommend it unless you’re looking for experimental fiction about writers.

First published in 1979. This edition published by Virago in 2009 with an illuminating introduction by Linda Grant, who actually met the author.

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