Owls Do Cry
By Janet Frame
Owls Do Cry is the first novel of one of New Zealand's most acclaimed classic writers, Janet Frame. Hailed as a masterpiece on first publication in 1957, it is comparable to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.
Owls Do Cry is the story of the Withers family: Francie, soon to leave school to start work at the woollen mills; Toby, whose days are marred by the velvet cloak of epilepsy; Chicks, the baby of the family; and Daphne, whose rich, poetic imagination condemns her to a life in institutions.
'Janet Frame's first full-length work of fiction, Owls Do Cry, is an exhilarating and dazzling prelude to her long and successful career. She was to write in several modes, publishing poems, short stories, fables and volumes of autobiography, as well as other novels of varied degrees of formal complexity, but Owls Do Cry remains unique in her oeuvre. It has the freshness and fierceness of a mingled cry of joy and pain. Its evocation of childhood recalls Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience, as well as the otherworldly Shakespearean lyric of her title and epigraph, but her handling of her dark material is wholly original' Margaret Drabble
Janet Frame (1924-2004) was one of New Zealand's most distinguished writers. She is best known for her autobiography, which inspired Jane Campion's internationally acclaimed film, An Angel at My Table. Michael Holroyd hailed it as 'one of the greatest autobiographies written in the twentieth century'. She was also the author of twelve novels, five collections of short stories, two volumes of poetry and a children's book.
Throughout her long career Janet Frame received a wide range of awards. They included every literary prize for which she was eligible in New Zealand, honorary membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Commonwealth prize for literature. She also won civil honours - a CBE in 1983 for services to literature, the Order of New Zealand in 1990 - and honorary doctorates and medals from three New Zealand universities.
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- Publication date:
14 Jan 2016
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Janet Frame was a unique and troubled soul whose luminous words are the more precious because they were snatched from the jaws of the disaster of her early life — Hilary Mantel
Janet Frame's first novel, Owls Do Cry, created a sensation in New Zealand when it was published in 1957 . . . Her dark, eloquent song captured my heart . . . Frame gave Daphne this inner world of gorgeously imagined riches, but also affirmed it in me, and in countless other sensitive teenage girls: we had been given a voice - poetic, powerful and fated. — Jane Campion
This is the era that saw the emergence of novelists including Doris Lessing, Muriel Spark and Iris Murdoch, and Frame's place alongside them would be assured if she never published anything but this one novel — Independent on Sunday
Owls Do Cry remains innovative and relevant; Frame's idiosyncratic and startlingly visual style means that the book's immense power to unnerve, astonish and impress endures — Guardian
An unforgettable and startlingly original work, a true and timeless classic of enduring power — Margaret Drabble
Janet Frame is the greatest New Zealand writer. She is utterly herself. Any one of her books could be published today and it would be ground-breaking — Eleanor Catton