“Gorse Is Not People” by Janet Frame

There is so much to like about a dwarf called Naida, whose pending twenty-first birthday is like a magical midnight that announces a small-time individual independence, her entrance into the real world outside a mental institution.

Naida is not simply adorable and heartbreakingly innocent. Confined by her condition, she is quite goal oriented. She is a dreamer, and although her dream might seem small – marriage with the pig boy – it appears quite grand. Frame manages to create this sense by skillfully keeping the narrative somewhere in-between a fairy tale and a realist mode, to put it crudely. Naida is something of an unorthodox princess who has fallen for the pig boy, but who does not shy away from checking out three doctors, and preferring the tall dark one.

There are two aspects I would like to highlight, which make the story ooze both intelligence and intimacy, a hard balance to maintain. First, I quite love the repetitions in the story. I do not often see skillful use of recurrent phrases and images that emerge from the character, and that push the narrative forward at just the right pace. The second would be the contrast between Naida’s observations and interpretations of the world and the unexpressed but implied worldviews of the “normal” people. This is a taste of it: Naida shows her beautiful engagement ring to the man she fancies. “The dark man frowned. Naida noticed this and thought, He’s jealous—I can tell. Feeling sorry for him, she smiled her special smile again. He looked up from his papers.” There is quite an exquisite tension between Naida’s comment that would be quite appropriate for a somewhat spoiled princess, and the implicit thought of the tall dark man.

I won’t give more spoilers. Read the story here.

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2 Responses to “Gorse Is Not People” by Janet Frame

  1. kat magendie says:

    so many books I have not read! I need time and more time and time again….!

  2. kat magendie says:

    Oh! And I need to add you to my blog roll!~

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