Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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RiP Beryl Fletcher

New Zealand feminist novelist Beryl Fletcher has died, aged 80.

Fletcher grew up in what she described as ‘a socialist working-class family’ in Auckland, and graduated in 1979 from Waikato University with a Masters in Sociology. In 1992 she won the Commonwealth Writers Prize in the Asia/Pacific region for her debut novel The Word Burners (Spinifex Press).

She was the author of six books—five novels and one memoir, all published by Spinifex Press—and numerous short stories.

Spinifex Press co-founder Susan Hawthorne writes:

‘Beryl Fletcher’s first novel, The Word Burners won the 1992 Commonwealth Writers Prize. It was extraordinary for a hard-hitting feminist novel. Spinifex was distributing the novel and would later release it as a Spinifex Feminist Classic. I recall madly faxing out media releases about this unknown New Zealand novelist.

‘Beryl’s second book, The Iron Mouth, a retelling of the story of Helen of Troy, was a Top Twenty Title in the Listener Women’s Book Festival, while The Silicon Tongue was translated into Korean and German. Beryl’s books explore the nature of power through methods of telling stories, who gets to tell them and what those stories expose about the structures of society

The Bloodwood Clan uses the restrictions of a religious community in a book about secrecy and racial intolerance while her final book, Juno and Hannah exposes the politics of eugenics and disability.

‘Some of the sources of Beryl Fletcher’s inspiration can be found in her memoir, The House at Karamu<, a working-class life and one in which education became her way to survive hardship. In 1994, Beryl was a resident at the University of Iowa International Writing Program.’


Category: Obituaries