The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 19 February 1998

Living in the Maniototo

by Janet Frame

In this highly inventive novel, New Zealand author Janet Frame weaves reality, fiction and dreams into an ornate and disturbingly beautiful tapestry. The narrator describes herself as author, eavesdropper and ventriloquist, each with a different name. The book subtly slips from one to the other, as the reader comes to realize each of these roles in the creation of a book. She tells us of her home in a bleak suburb that is also a sister city of Berkeley, California. The story slips into the narrator's past, with two husbands. Then into her travels after her second husband's death. She goes to Baltimore and Berkeley, where she mysteriously inherits the entire estate of a couple she hardly knows. Yet nothing is truly as it seems in this book. The places are accutely described and fairly depressing. The characters are well drawn, yet one never knows who is real and who is not. The book is a subtle study of concentration, avoidance, creation and writing. Very striking.

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Also by Janet Frame: [The Carpathians]

[Other Women Authors]

[Other Books in or about California]