An Autobiography by Janet Frame Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

An Autobiography is New Zealand author Janet Frame’s three-volume examination of her life from her birth through the early years of her career as a writer. The volumes were published separately over a four-year period, and each one deals with a distinct phase of Frame’s life. The first volume, To the Is-Land, looks at the years of her childhood until her departure from home for teachers college. The second, An Angel at My Table, deals with her training as a teacher, her nervous breakdown and the years of hospitalization that followed, and her gradual emergence as a promising young writer. The final volume, The Envoy from Mirror City, tells of her travels to England and Spain, her first experiences with love, her growing success as a writer, and her eventual return to New Zealand.

Frame’s life story is a compelling one, marked by poverty, hardship, illness, and her long struggle to come to terms with herself and her need for self-expression through writing. The early years of her childhood are among the book’s happiest. With the arrival of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, however, the mood of family life gradually changes as the pressures facing her father sometimes bring out a difficult, even cruel, side to his character. The situation is exacerbated by the onset of her brother’s epilepsy. As her family’s internal structure begins to fray, Janet also faces problems at school, where, although she is an excellent student, she remains an...

(The entire section is 609 words.)