Maurice (Gough) Gee Fleur Adcock - Essay

Fleur Adcock

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Maurice Gee's last novel, Plumb, was the story of a New Zealand Presbyterian minister who preached pacifism and socialism, left the church, and was sent to prison for sedition. The narrator of Meg is his daughter, a woman in her early fifties. In using her as a mouthpiece Gee has set himself an even trickier task than that of speaking through her obsessed and unforgiving father, but there are no lapses of style or tone: the narrative voice is consistently convincing.

Meg is the youngest of George Plumb's twelve children, and has grown up emotionally dominated by the family…. Early in the book Meg rejects her romantic, stylized view of them: "I'm grown up now. The Plumbs have a human shape. They're nothing special." But in her retrospective accounts of family gatherings, the central set-pieces of the novel, their humanity is what sets them apart from the less-than-real beings outside the family: "Esther's guests were glittering apes and birds. Only the Plumbs were human."…

Meg's vice is sentimentality. She knows it, and accepts it as a sign of her emotional health, but battles to eliminate it from her literary style, mentally referring phrases to the judgment of her son Raymond, a kind of invisible authorial presence…. She is haunted by a childhood dream of a black river on which the members of her family floated past her, one by one, dead. This, and her youthful concept of the Land of Missing (a...

(The entire section is 528 words.)