SYLVIA by Lynley Hood


The Biography of Sylvia Ashton-Warner
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A dull yet disturbing portrait of the late novelist/educator. In the 1960's and 70's, Sylvia Ashton-Wamer became a heroine to many as her innovative teaching methods in schools for the Maori intents of New Zealand were internationally emulated and passionately admired. Through her novel, Spinster, and her nonfiction Teacher, a vision of the creative images in the inner world of children--which could be unlocked through the use of "Key Vocabulary" and expressed through drawing, music, and dance--appealed to teachers and parents hungry for more humane and creative schooling. Although always more of an emotional approach than a practical method, Ashton-Warner's way of schooling remains influential today. First-time book-author and native New Zealander Hood, however, does Ashton-Warner no justice here. The educator emerges as a tortured and somewhat sordid character, unrelenting in her flirtatiousness ("always longing to be kissed"), demanding, domineering, irresponsible, and often drunk or dragged. Planted firmly in the center of her own fantasy world, she made lovers, friends, and children all grist for her unsavory mill. Hood chronicles Ashton-Warner's misery and empty relationships in exhausting but unilluminating detail. And while there are plenty of testimonies to the impact of her theatrically charismatic appeal, the genuinely positive side of her nature never emerges here. Disappointing. Whatever spiritual truths Ashton-Warner may have touched are available only in her own writings, and are neither explored nor explained properly in Hood's biography.

Pub Date: May 10th, 1989
ISBN: 670-81937-9
Publisher: Viking
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