Author(s): Nancy Ellison
This is an instalment of autobiography by a New Zealand woman, the mother of six children, written in her early forties. Autobiographies are usually written by the elderly who not un-naturally are often guarded, discreet and forgetful. The details of youth for instance are for most of us becoming hazy even thirty years latter. People should obviously write their life stories earlier while the feeling of what it is like to be young is still fresh in their minds, the really important parts of their lives recently behind them.
Mrs Ellison's story is a New Zealand story of our own generation. Here are the very sights and sounds of town and country in the period, not of our fathers, but ourselves, told simply but with complete honesty. Mrs Ellison was brought up in the country, went to school and university in Auckland. She was an able student and her path in life almost took her to Oxford via a post-graduate scholarship in classics. Almost?but not quite. Instead, she went to teaching jobs in the Rotorua Primary School, a Maori school and a high school, then back to the Whirinaki Valley, back to the valley she loved so well, to married life and the care of six children, to hard work on the land ? with further vistas of hard work stretching ahead.
For the author, the family and the valley, the cottage she had helped to build, parenthood and life on the land, these were the main focuses of her life. Her attachment to the Whirinaki Valley, which she describes with loving detail suggests an attachment to a place perhaps rare among New Zealanders. One discovers here a new respect for country life as a way of living, not as a way of making income (a very poor income it produced).
This is a simple story. There is no fine writing. No famous figures cross its pages. Its story of later-day privations on the land may indeed strike many readers with surprise. But many will find pleasure in the plain narration of common emotions, the pleasures of school, the poignancy of war-time farewells and war-time separations, and the joys of motherhood.