Margaret Rose Bennett, like her elder sister, Elizabeth, was named after the two English princesses. But Elizabeth is dead, and Margaret Rose still living, searching and reaching out for life and its meaning. And against the frankly odd, strained and curiously English household she inhabits in a New Zealand city, it is hard to make out the truth. So Margaret abandons what her parents think is right: learning English history, the French language, listening to comedy shows on the World Service and returning home on the 9.30 tram and maps out a course of her own. She studies Maori at University, makes friends with the wayward Emily (daughter of the soon to be Prime Minister of New Zealand) and shy, independent Prudence. As a trio they study hard for their degrees, work by day at the local Government offices and by night sing, drink and laugh with the local Maori people - and fall in love. A new world, an enchanting world, and one with an underbelly of struggle, colour, passion and even violence. Far removed from the closed, ordered life of Margaret Rose's family, but perhaps not so detached from their own, secret history...Here is an extraordinary, poetic novel of a society trapped in a time of its own, undercut by a people that live and breathe with a vigour that bubbles and burst through the silent surface.
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(196mm x 127mm x 29mm)
Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Ewing sets her novel in 1950s New Zealand, a land whose people are divided by race and governed by the past. The book's heroine is Margaret-Rose, who with her elder sister Elizabeth was named in honour of the British royal family. Elizabeth dies at seven and her death - like so much else in Maggie's life - is never discussed. Maggie herself is less willing to be ruled by the shadows and when she turns 18, finds release in the new world of work and university. At her day job, in a government department, she meets Emily Evans, bright and blase daughter of the would-be prime minister, and the fluffy, gentle Prudence. Both of them have skeletons in the closet; notably Emily's errant father's seedy habits and Prudence's horrific memories of discovering her murdered parents. Then Maggie begins to study Maori and meets Timoti, a brilliant student who is struggling with questions of identity and race. Ewing's writing is evocative, with action moving effortlessly from the small-minded suburbs to the bizarre rigidity of the office, and on into the Maori community, where life is governed by different rules. Her writing is full of compassion, earthiness and hope. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Barbara Ewing
Barbara Ewing was born and brought up in New Zealand and is well known there and in the UK as an actress. She lives in central London where she combines her dual careers of acting and writing. Her novel, THE ACTRESSES, was published by Little, Brown to great acclaim in 1997.