Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Whitbread winner Ann Thwaite is about to undertake a national tour that is also a journey of personal rediscovery. She will visit New Zealand to celebrate the publication of 'Passageways' by Otago University Press (launch date 1 May 2009).


1 May 5.30pm Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin
4 May 10.30am Waikouaiti Public Library
4 May 2.30pm Oamaru Public Library
4 May 7pm South Canterbury Museum, Timaru
5 May 5pm Madras Caf頂ooks, Christchurch
6 May 6pm Take Note, Hokitika
8 May 12 noon Gold Reef Stationery, Reefton
8 May 6pm Page & Blackmore Booksellers, Nelson
11 May 1pm Te Papa, Wellington
11 May 3.30pm Unity Books, Wellington
12 May 12 noon Palmerston North Public Library, 4 The Square
15 May 10.30am Auckland Writers & Readers Festival, Aotea Centre
18 May 5pm Puke Ariki & Poppies Bookshop, New Plymouth

Passageways: the story of a New Zealand family finds Whitbread-prize winning biographer Ann Thwaite exploring her own remarkable Anglo-New Zealand family. Anns eight great grand-parents all arrived in New Zealand between 1858 and 1868. Their family names were Harrop, Sales, Campbell, Brown, Valentine, Maxwell, Jefcoate and Oliver.
Passageways is a social history as well as a family one. The starting point was the authors attempt to discover why those great grandparents all made the decision to undertake that dangerous voyage under sail to the far side of the world.
What did they do when they got to New Zealand? How did someone who had worked as a railway guard in England become a prosperous farmer at Pareora, near Timaru? Why did the daughter of a fourth son, born in a Scottish castle, die in a miners hotel in Reefton? How was it that a sailors occupation on his marriage certificate was shown as gold digger?

Ann Thwaite was lucky to have, on her mothers side, two unpublished memoirs that were surprising in their candour, and the diary of a settler killed in the Taranaki Land Wars. Her fathers history was almost totally unknown, for reasons that became apparent as it was unearthed.
The core of the book is the story of Ann's own parents, Hilda and Angus, who met as school children in Hokitika, went to Canterbury University College together, but did not marry until years later in London. There they founded the long-running New Zealand News and Angus Harrop researched and wrote about New Zealands colonial history. Their children, Ann and her brother, David, were born in London but in 1940 made their own dangerous journey across the world to spend the war years separated from their parents but safe in New Zealand. The book ends with their return to England in 1945 with a deep love for this country, a love that animates Anns story.

The previously unexamined family archives, from a family that rarely seems to have thrown anything away, and Davids internet researches, were full of the sort of surprises that any biographer relishes. The book is lavishly illustrated with over 300 images in the text: family photographs of course, but also an 1892 examination receipt, Waitaki Boys High wartime certificates, postcards, a 1921 theatre programme, a 1932 dinner menu with Lord Rutherford of Nelson in the chair, book jackets and so on.
Appropriately Ann Thwaite and her brother, David Harrop, now live on opposite sides of the world, in the two countries so richly evoked in Passageways: the story of a New Zealand family.

Prior to writing Passageways: the story of a New Zealand family (Otago UP, 2009), Ann Thwaite established a glittering reputation withfive major biographies. AA Milne: His Life was the Whitbread Biographyof the Year, 1990. Edmund Gosse: A Literary Landscape (Duff Cooper Prize, 1985) was described by John Carey as magnificent, one of the finest literary biographies of our time. Glimpses of the Wonderful, about the life of Edmunds father, Philip Henry Gosse, was picked out by D.J. Taylor in the Independent as one of the Ten Best Biographies ever. Frances Hodgson Burnett was originally published (1974) as Waiting for the Party and reissued in 2007 with the sub-title Beyond the Secret Garden. Emily Tennyson, The Poets Wife (1996), will be reissued for the Tennyson bicentenary in 2009.

Born in London, Ann spent the war years in New Zealand, returning to complete her education at Queen Elizabeths, Barnet, and St Hildas College, Oxford. She has lived in Tokyo, Benghazi and Nashville, Tennessee. She has lectured in many countries, but most of her life has been spent as a writer, and she is now settled in Norfolk with her husband, the poet Anthony Thwaite. She is an Oxford D.Litt., and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is an Honorary Fellow of Roehampton University (National Centre for Research into Childrens Literature) and has an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia.
For forty years, Ann Thwaite wrote childrens books, including The Camelthorn Papers (1969), translated into Japanese and Greek, Tracks, a New Zealand story, and a much-loved picture book Gilbert and the Birthday Cake. Jan Mark included her story Feeding the Cats in The Oxford Book of Childrens Stories (1993). She reviewed childrens books, mainly in the Times Literary Supplement, for many years, and ran a library for local children in her home.

The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh, a scrapbook off-shoot of her Milne biography, was published on both sides of the Atlantic in 1992. She edited (1968-1975) Allsorts, an annual collection which included new work for children by such writers as Michael Frayn, James Fenton, Penelope Lively and William Trevor.
My Oxford (1977) contained memories of their time there by writers including John Mortimer, Antonia Fraser and Martin Amis. Her edition of Portraits from Life is a collection (1991) of Edmund Gosses essays on his friends, including Henry James, Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Hardy.

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