Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ngaio Marsh - Her Life in Crime

By Joanne Drayton.

This book finally floated its way to the top of my to be read pile and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it to be a warm and fascinating look into the life of Ngaio Marsh, well as far as anyone could get into her life considering her fierce protection of her privacy, which extended to carefully destroying all of her personal correspondence to ensure, no doubt, that no pesky biographers would be able to pin her down.

Joanne Drayton takes a story teller's approach to the biography which makes it very readable and you get a feeling for the woman. It certainly made me appreciate her amazing work ethic - she threw herself whole heartedly into all her projects, no matter how much of a struggle they might be.

The other device I like in this biography was the author's use of Ngaio's crime fiction novels, and theatre productions to portray what was happening in her life at the time, and to refelct the real people and events which inspired the stories.

So although some questions about Ngaio's life were left unanswered, the book gave me a great appreciation of Ngaio Marsh as writer and theatre director and woman. It also gives a good background into the history of crime writing, and the environment of her time and her peers, the four Queens of Crime. I gained a new appreciation of what it was for Ngaio Marsh to keep up her work in her later years when her health was deteriorating and many of her friends and colleagues had died. She was a remarkable woman.

I look forward to hearing Joanne Drayton's talk at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival next week.


Bookman Beattie said...

Yes a terrific book Vanda but I can't believe you have left reading it for so long! I heard Joanne Drayton at the Christchurch Festival last year, it was a marvellous session that sent me on a Ngaio Marsh reading binge.

Vanda Symon said...

I know, I can't believe it took me that long either, but it was a case of the tyranny of the urgent taking precedence. I saw Joanne in Christchurch with Elric Hooper, they were great. Looking forward to seeing her in Auckland, and you of course!