Janet Frame Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Janet Paterson Frame Clutha is New Zealand’s most critically acclaimed novelist and a writer with an international reputation. She was born to George Samuel Frame, a train engineer, and Lottie Clarice (Godfrey) Frame, an aspiring writer. The family lived in a series of small towns before settling in Oamaru, the setting for several of her later works. After attending local schools, she enrolled at Dunedin Teachers’ College and at the University of Otago, where she studied psychology. Her teaching ended abruptly in 1945, when she decided to become a writer—she had written as a child and as a college student. She published her first short story in 1946.{$S[A]Clutha, Janet Paterson Frame;Frame, Janet}

Frame’s writing was in part therapy for her loneliness and unhappiness, which culminated with her sister Isabel’s death by drowning in 1947 (another sister had suffered the same fate ten years earlier). Frame’s failure to overcome her bereavement (treated in Daughter Buffalo) added to other personal problems that had earlier resulted in a suicide attempt, and in 1947 she voluntarily committed herself to Seacliff Hospital. During the next eight years she was a patient in mental hospitals, but she continued to write, publishing a collection of short stories, The Lagoon, during this period. In 1954 Frank Sargeson, a noted New Zealand writer, invited her to his estate, where she wrote her first novel, Owls Do Cry. He also helped her obtain a State Literary Fund grant, and she traveled abroad until 1958, when she settled in London and a physician advised her to continue her “therapeutic” writing. She returned to New Zealand in 1963, and the productivity that characterized the London years (three novels and a book of short stories) continued. She traveled widely, twice working at the prestigious Yaddo writers’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, and visiting England and France. In 1967 The Pocket Mirror, a collection of poems, was published,...

(The entire section is 816 words.)

Janet Frame Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Janet Paterson Frame was born August 28, 1924, in Dunedin, New Zealand, the third of five children born to George Samuel, a railway engineer, and Lottie Clarice Frame, a former maid at the house of one of New Zealand’s greatest writers, Katherine Mansfield. Lottie Frame had literary inclinations, and in addition to proudly displaying her favorite books, reciting passages from them, and encouraging her children to read them, she sold her own poetry door-to-door.

In 1930, Frame’s father was transferred to Oamaru, a small town on the coast of South Island, and the children enrolled in school there. Other students shunned the Frame children, who lived in poverty; the school children wanted little to do with George, an epileptic, and resented the three older Frame girls, who were inseparable and spoke of reading and writing books. In her isolation, and agonizingly shy, Frame, who had red, frizzy hair and bad teeth, began to retreat even farther into an imaginary world of her own making, dreaming of becoming a poet. She finished high school, took a teacher-training course, and began a teaching position in Dunedin. After one stressful year, Frame left teaching to pursue writing full time.

In 1946, a few months after Frame published her first short story, her younger sister drowned. Frame’s older sister also had drowned under uncertain circumstances several years earlier, which made her younger sister’s death doubly tragic. Unable to cope with...

(The entire section is 504 words.)

Janet Frame Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Janet Paterson Frame was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, the third in a family of five children. George Samuel Frame, her father, worked as a railroad engineer, and the family moved frequently as his place of work changed. Her mother, Lottie Clarice Godfrey, had to raise a large family with little money. Despite difficult circumstances and childhood tragedies, Frame went on to become New Zealand’s best-known writer since Katherine Mansfield.

Frame’s compiled reflections, An Autobiography (1989), tells the poignant tale of young Janet—sensitive, intelligent, and gifted—growing up in the repressive atmosphere of provincial New Zealand. As a child, Frame watched her mother, a talented storyteller and poet, subjugate her life to her husband’s needs and submit to his sometimes brutal moods. In spite of this, Lottie Frame managed to establish an atmosphere of intellectual liveliness in her household, where Janet and the other children were surrounded with poetry and stories. Janet created an inner world that allowed her to retreat into her imagination in self-defense as life became increasingly troublesome. In the world of her imagination there was no punishment for being original or different as there was at school and in society. At home, she and her sisters were beaten by their father for any signs of pubescent sexual curiosity. In small-town New Zealand in the 1930’s no deviation from acceptable behavior was tolerated and people were rigidly stratified into social and economic classes.

During these years, Frame also experienced family tragedy. Her brother, Bruddie, was epileptic—a disease that was not understood at the time—and he was punished when he could not control his fits. In 1937, Janet’s eldest sister, Myrtle, drowned in the local swimming pool. A few years later, her younger sister, Isabel, also...

(The entire section is 757 words.)

Janet Frame Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Janet Frame, in her novels, stories, poems, and autobiographies, transmitted a harrowing vision of death and resurrection and the spiritual power of language. She affirmed the purity and strength of being against the dark antithesis of human mediocrity, confusion, and dishonesty. She transmuted the cruelty and unspeakable suffering of her early life into a worldly wisdom and humor, an affirmation of life itself. Hers was a unique and enduring literary legacy.