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.)


(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.)