A Fence Around The Cuckoo, the first volume of Ruth Park’s autobiography, gripped me from the opening paragraphs as the adult writer shadows the child she was, scared and confused eavesdropping on her aunt and grandmother.
Ruth Park was a prolific writer and the ability to bring people and places to life in her novel is used to equally good effect in the story of her own life.
She takes us from her early days in the bush camp where she and her mother followed her father who was a bridge builder and road maker; through school in Te Kuiti, then following her father’s bankruptcy during the Great Depression, to life in Auckland.
She was forced to leave school but she was driven to write – so much so that when the only paper available was the newspaper she wrote in the white spaces round the edges of the print.
This volume ends as she arrives in Australia, after an eight hour journey by flying boat, to be met by the man who became her husband, D’Arcy Niland.
He was a writer too and the second volume of her autobiography, Fishing In The Styx, which shows their dogged determination to succeed in spite of events which conspire to make this difficult, is an inspiration for anyone finding life difficult and would-be writers in particular.
A friend said she was torn between reading these books quickly because she was enjoying them so much and slowly because she didn’t want them to end. I felt the same way.
A Fence Around The Cuckoo, and Fishing In The Styx, by Ruth Park were published by Penguin, in 1992 and 1993 respectively.