Literary Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
#1  sun surfer 06-20-2020, 12:41 AM
'Set in provincial, pre-1940s New Zealand, Owls Do Cry explores the Withers family, in particular Daphne Withers. When one of Daphne's sisters dies, a crisis is provoked that leads Daphne to a mental asylum where she receives shock treatment. Her voice from "the Dead Room" haunts the novel with its poetic insights.'


There are two phases of discussion. The first begins immediately and may contain conversations about anything pre-completion of the selection including reading progress, section thoughts, outside info, etc. The second begins on the 1st and also includes anything post-completion. These are recommended to help us discuss things in a similar timeframe but anyone can discuss any part or aspect at any time.

This is the MR Literary Club selection for June 2020. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!

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#2  sun surfer 06-20-2020, 12:49 AM
I'm excited for it. I've got the audiobook narrated by Heather Bolton ready to go once I've finished the current listen which should be soon, in the next few days. Who knows, maybe I'll be starting it on the solstice.

#3  Bookworm_Girl 06-24-2020, 11:13 PM
I’ve got the audio and ebook now. Looking forward to this one too. I read somewhere (maybe a Goodreads review?) that this book works well in both formats. I’m thinking of alternating between them.

#4  sun surfer 06-25-2020, 03:43 PM
I'm enjoying the audiobook narrated by Heather Bolton. She's doing a good job although oddly her voice sounds a little suburban Melbourne to me even though she's from New Zealand. Not that I'm any sort of expert on the differences in those accents and they all sound somewhat similar-ish to me, but I'm a fan of the television series Kath & Kim and those characters purposely have a distinct accent that I assume is a send up of a suburban Melbourne accent since that's where it's set. With Bolton sometimes I swear she sounds just like a character from that show and how they talk as opposed to say the accents I heard in Hunt for the Wilderpeople that's set in New Zealand which I just watched a few weeks ago.

#5  sun surfer 06-27-2020, 03:01 AM
I'm not sure if anyone else is to this point yet, so I'll put it in spoilers though it's early-ish in the book yet, but
Spoiler Warning below

I'm having a hard time imagining the scene of how Francie dies. It's described very quickly as if they're on a sort of hill and Francie trips and rolls down into the fire. It just seems difficult to imagine how that would kill her, unless the fall itself killed her with a broken neck or something but it seems to insinuate the fire kills her.

My other thought is that maybe instead of a hill, it's more an edge to a large pit (it does say a hollow) full of fire? But if so it seems odd she'd go anywhere near it.

#6  Bookworm_Girl 06-27-2020, 03:11 AM
I’ve listened to about an hour of the audiobook so far so I didn’t look at your spoiler yet. I’m going to switch to the ebook over the weekend. It is an excellent narration. I think the audio helps express the poetic and rhythmic prose well.

#7  sun surfer 06-27-2020, 06:36 PM
I agree that she's doing a great job with the narration. This is a literary book with a capital L and as you say she's doing a really good job with the poetic quality of the more esoteric chapters, and in the more straightforward chapters she does a good job with the different characters' voices.

It does make me think I should listen to more read poetry whether in audiobooks or even just something like youtube videos of individual poems. I haven't really since way back in school, and I've been meaning to read more poetry but actually reading an entire book of it can be intimidating.

#8  AnotherCat 06-27-2020, 06:52 PM
I finished the book some days ago, the end of voting was a convenient time for me to start a new one and I found too that the prose flowed by pretty fast. I have a general low opinion of most NZ fiction - for now that comment may be taken for this book as being a leading or misleading one .

What I can say for now though is that from my local position I found all the events, general depictions of the culture, colloquialisms, etc. as being correct and believable even if not commonplace, but perhaps one or two events seeming to be passed quickly over.

#9  Bookworm_Girl 06-27-2020, 11:42 PM
I have finished Part 1 (childhood) and am now reading Part 2 (20 years later). The prose is very interesting. I can't think of another book quite like it. I want to say it's weaving a tapestry through the repetition of words, events, biblical and fairy tale references, etc. Although, perhaps it is tangled wool to use a phrase from the book with its change in characters and time frames, and it's more like the story is pulling threads apart to unweave them.

I started to do a little research on the author's life and her own struggles with mental health, including 8 years spent in the hospital receiving 200 electroshock treatments. She was about to have a lobotomy when a hospital official read that she had won a literary prize, and then she was released.

AnotherCat, I am looking forward to hearing what you have to say about what represents typical New Zealand fiction and how this does or doesn't represent that.

#10  Bookworm_Girl 06-27-2020, 11:45 PM
Quote sun surfer
I'm not sure if anyone else is to this point yet, so I'll put it in spoilers though it's early-ish in the book yet, but
Here was my interpretation of your spoiler.

Spoiler Warning below

I think it was more of a pit with fire in it. She accidentally tripped. She wasn't paying attention because she had seen her friend's father and was surprised.

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