Early New Zealand Women Writers. Some of their work described as racy and corrupting!

Check out some of our pioneer women writers. Some wrote very controversial books; many were published overseas and became hugely popular.

The Butcher Shop by Jean Devanny
Cover of The Butcher ShopSet on a King Country Station, Jean Devanny’s The Butcher Shop is about adultery and murder. It was described as disgusting, polemic and ahead of its time. It was banned on publication in New Zealand and in many other countries due to the violence, open sexuality and feminism portrayed within its pages.

The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander
Jane Mander’s The Story of a New Zealand River is set in Northland and describes the issues faced when a local sawmill boss marries a cultured, piano-playing Englishwoman, who brings with her to the bush her children from a previous marriage. It has been suggested that this novel provided inspiration for elements in Jane Campion's film The Piano.

Isabel Maude Peacocke
Cover of The Story of a New Zealand RiverIsabel Maude Peacocke wrote children's books and light romances set in Auckland. Although not well known in New Zealand, she had a large readership in England, where her work was published.

Nelle (Ellen) M. Scanlan
Nelle Scanlan wrote four family-sagas set in New Zealand. The novels in the 'Pencarrow' series (Pencarrow, Tides of Youth, Winds of Heaven, and Kelly Pencarrow) published between 1932 and 1939, portrayed early New Zealand as a prosperous thriving country. They were very popular and considered to have created an interest for New Zealand fiction in that era. Nelle also published many novels in England before writing the 'Pencarrow' sagas. She was the most popular New Zealand novelist of her generation.

New Zealand Holiday by Rosemary Rees
Rosemary Rees could be described as the pioneer 'chick lit' writer! She wrote racy romance novels, some of which were set on back blocks farms in the North Island. Her 84 novels became so popular that some were serialised in papers in America and Britain.

Breakfast At Six by Mary Scott
Mary Scott made international success with the writing of her rural domestic comedies which began with the publication of her ‘Barbara’ newspaper sketches in 1936. One of her most popular novels was Breakfast at Six about newlyweds and their life on a back-blocks farm and the problems and pleasures faced by a rural community in New Zealand. It was followed by the sequel Dinner Doesn't Matter.

Ngaio Marsh
If you haven't already, do try a Ngaio Marsh mystery. Described as one of the Queens of Crime Fiction of the 1920s and 1930s, she is probably best known for her wonderful detective novels featuring Detective Inspector Roderick Alleyn; four of these (Vintage Murder, Died in the Wool, Colour Scheme and Photo-Finish) are set in New Zealand. You might also enjoy reading our blog posts about Ngaio Marsh.

Cover of Vintage Murder Cover of Died in the Wool Cover of Colour Scheme Cover of Photo-finish

Please note that some of these books are only available at our Store. There is no public access to this collection, but you can place holds on most Store titles for borrowing. Reference only items held at Store can be sent to Central Library Manchester for viewing – please ask a librarian to arrange this for you.

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Christchurch City Libraries