11 April 2013

Katherine Mansfield on Picton, New Zealand

The above photo shows Picton, the port on South Island where the ferries for Wellington depart.
In her short story 'The Voyage', published in 1921, Katherine Mansfield describes the journey (obviously much longer then, and the ship had cabins) of the young child Fenella with her grandmother to Picton following the recent death of the child's mother. As they approach Picton, the narrator mentions the 'little houses [...] clustered together, like shells on the lid of a box'.
Janet Frame's mother Lottie was born in Picton, and – in a startling re-play of Janet's sister Myrtle's death by drowning ten years earlier – the same thing happened to her sister Isobel in 1947 when Isobel was on holiday there with her mother at her aunt May's.
Janet Frame later visited the (really very small) town in 1984 and thought it the most beautiful place she'd ever been to, finding its fords and blue water wonderful. I didn't form a similar impression to that as it was the only miserable day of our stay in New Zealand, all of the others indeed being wonderful.

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