GREENSTONE by Sylvia Ashton-Warner
Kirkus Star


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Beautiful, vivid writing and a full family of fifteen characters emerge in a short novel that seems as if it could be the beginning volume of the chronicle of the Considines of New Zealand. Richard Considine, once a celebrity in England, is bent into a Z by crippling arthritis. He makes the tea and minds the endless supply of children while his wife teaches school, saws the wood and draws the water. Mrs. Considine is almost as great a character as her husband. She is still jealous of her captive, captivating cripple. She does not suffer in silence, but complains loudly, melodramatically every step of the way -- fending off their stage villain of a landlord, tangling with her two generations of children, berating Mr. Considine until he calls upon them for protection or aid while rolling out their names like an old Testament genealogist. Mr. Considine is a fabulist, his children the audience; at one point he tells them a story proving that the best and most beautiful thing in the world is a moment in time. Moments in time are what Sylvia Ashton-Warner creates-- ten growing years which see Considine's thirteen individualistic children clambering up and out of poverty armed with poetry, music and remembered gusts of fury followed by laughter. Huia Brice Considine is the sixteenth member of the family. Her royal insignia is the greenstone of the title. She is a Maori princess fathered by Considine's oldest son and motherless since her birth, shifting between the vers libre of her Maori inheritance and the epic quality the Considines bring to living. The author's best since Spinster and this should broaden her faithful readership.

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 1965
Publisher: Simon & Schuster