Posted by: Lisa Hill | June 16, 2013

Sensational Snippets: In the Memorial Room (2013), by Janet Frame

In the Memoiral roomIn the Memorial Room is a wicked black comedy by Janet Frame (1924-2004), released posthumously now in 2013 in accordance with her instructions – in case it offended certain people …

Was this one of them, I wonder?

I watched Connie, bent over her sheet of paper, drawing with a large blue crayon, absorbed in her work.  Her face was permanently pale with the kind of makeup which suppresses colour in the cheeks.  Her cheekbones were high and rather narrowed her small blue eyes.  She too was stockily built and dressed usually in a  tweed costume such as New Zealand women wear to the horse races at Addington and Avondale, and her evening wear to the receptions and dinners for the Watercress-Armstrong Fellow was usually a dress of dark shimmering materials, and she carried a small spangled evening bag.  Her hands, grasping the crayon, were plump and floury.  When she spoke, French or English, she spoke slowly, almost mechanically, with a swaying motion of her body as if she had within her some instrument for winding her words, in sentence-containers, up from a great depth where they had fallen or been banished; sometimes one felt as if she herself had gone away down into the rock to hack them out and shake them clean – a long slow process which made her listeners impatient: usually Max or Michael took over the telling of a long story when the words to fit it appeared to be growing scarce.

from In the Memorial Room by Janet Frame, Text Publishing, 2013, p 54


Fishpond: In the Memorial Room
Or direct from Text Publishing.


  1. This is at least the second of Janet Frame’s novels released post-humously. Her novel “Towards Another Summer” wasn’t published when she was alive because she thought it dealt too directly with her mental illness. It seems like she couldn’t keep from telling the truth about herself or others, and that probably was a symptom of her illness, but it also makes her work fascinating.


    • That’s interesting, Tony … this one is quite light-hearted in tone, at least so far (I’m about half way through).


  2. I’m afraid Tony has just invented his claim here that Towards Another Summer “wasn’t published when she was alive because she thought it dealt too directly with her mental illness”. What egregious nonsense! For one thing, Frame never had a mental illness: she was misdiagnosed. And it would be hard to find an author who has been more generous in revealing herself and her experiences as Frame did in her autobiography and in many of her other non-fiction writings and interviews! There is no evidence for Tony’s claim, and I ought to know because I authorised the release of the Towards Another Summer manuscript. Frame is only quoted as saying that the book was “too personal” to publish at the time. Most knowledgeable commentators realise that the “too personal” didn’t refer to herself but to the family who had inspired the story.


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