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The story of a New Zealand river by Jane…
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The story of a New Zealand river

by Jane Mander

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(8.5) ( )
  HelenBaker | Feb 2, 2019 |
I can see why some have considered the film The Piano to have been inspired by this - the resemblance in the setup is unmistakeable - but "inspired by" is as far as it goes. Yes, our repressed heroine, with a daughter borne out of wedlock, makes a loveless marriage, brings daughter and piano to her isolated home, and falls in love with a local. But this isn't exactly a new story. The world is full of stories about adulterous love triangles, approximately two of which I've really liked.

This one I didn't hate. It didn't resolve the love triangle as I'd have liked, but only about two have. It was at least a great improvement on the film's destructively unbridled passion. Characters brought sense as much as emotion to bear - sometimes preachingly so, the author's opinions on love, marriage, the weight of conventions and the liberalisation of society all made very clear.

It's a lot more psychological and complex than the film. (Of course a film is limited in what it can achieve in these respects.) It had a tendency to wallow in Alice's head (leavened primarily by David paternalistically tutoring her in how to be more sensible). But we also see the issue from various angles when her daughter grows to face (with her own very different worldview) a similar situation. The mother-daughter relationship is as central to the novel as the romantic ones; this alone is worth the read. ( )
  zeborah | Jun 5, 2013 |
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First published in 1920, this is the most celebrated of Jane Mander's six novels and is now regarded as a New Zealand classic.

Alice Roland, together with her children, boxes, mattresses and piano, is punted up river to the 'appalling isolation' of their new home, 'a small house against a splendid wall of bush' in the kauri forest at Pukekaroro. She is joining her husband there, a reunion that is far from warm, but this remote place is to mark Alice's long and steady growth towards shared love, a new awareness of life and a sense of personal liberation.

First published in New York in 1920, this is the first New Zealand novel to confront convincingly many of the twentieth century's major political, religious, moral and social issues - most significantly women's rights. Daring for its time in its exploration of sexual, emotional and intellectual freedom, the New Zealand Herald found the ending 'too early for good public morality'. It is believed by many to be the inspiration of Jane Campion's film The Piano.
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The narrative of Alice Roland's long and steady growth towards shared love, a new awareness of life and a sense of personal liberation flows through the pages of the first New Zealand novel to confront convincingly many of the twentieth century's major political. religious, moral and social issues - including women's rights. This is the most celebrated of Jane Mander's six novels, and is believed by many to be the source of Jane Campion's film The Piano.… (more)

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