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In the Memorial Room

3.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  117 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Harry Gill, a moderately successful writer of historical fiction, has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship—a 'living memorial’ to the poet, Margaret Rose Hurndell. He arrives in the small French village of Menton, where Hurndell once lived and worked, to write. But the Memorial Room is not suitable—it has no electricity or water. Hurndell never wrote her ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published December 10th 2013 by Counterpoint (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

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Sue
Nov 01, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
In the Memorial Room is a sly, witty, blackly humorous tale of Harry Gill, a 33 year old New Zealander, writer of historical fiction (whose books have actually sold) who has been awarded the annual Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship in honor of the deceased poet, Margaret Rose Hurndell. With the Fellowship comes a six month sabbatical in Menton, France, once home to the poet and the site of the Memorial Room. Unknown to Gill, this room, in spite of its title, is open to the elements, has no electri ...more
Emma Sea
Dec 07, 2013 Emma Sea rated it did not like it
Look, I'm just going to say it: I found this excruciating.

If someone heard that a nationally-worshipped writer was worth reading, and checked out this book as representative of her work, they'd never read another. And they would doubt our collective sanity.

Yes, I get that it's a satirical roman a clef.

But divorced from the name, honestly, you think this is up there with Faces in the Water? The poignant richness of The Bull Calf? Seriously?

I'd like to refer you to Christopher Sullivan's review, w
...more
Lisa
Jan 19, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s a real irony implicit in this amusing book by New Zealand author Janet Frame (1924-2004). She wrote it to satirise the fetishisation of another Kiwi author, Katherine Mansfield, but now Frame herself is on a similar kind of pedestal …

Released posthumously in accordance with Frame’s instructions, In the Memorial Room is a wicked black comedy. Written in the 1970s, it was withheld from publication because it’s so obviously based on Frame’s own experience in Menton, France, as a recipient o
...more
Tuck
my very first janet frame book, in the memorial room has popped my janet frame cherry! and i couldn't be more thrilled. harry gill wins an in-residence prize to stay in menton france for some months, to write. and though it is not a super big monetary prize, it seems adequate to house and feed him. he even has a new novel he's working on, but then, his patrons and other expats keep hemming him in , closer closer. and while harry thought he is surly slowly going blind, he all the sudden is stone ...more
Sandee
Apr 11, 2015 Sandee rated it liked it
For as many books as she has written, it has been such a long time since I have read Janet Frame. Way back when, I was once a vagabond. I was taken in/adopted by a pack of bookstore intellectuals who made a great and immeasurable impression upon my developing intellect. Thanks to them, I sometimes appear smarter than I actually am. One of those wonderful people spent every Friday night at my apartment - he made me new fancy cocktail every week (Brandy Alexander's anyone?)and we watched cult movi ...more
Kate
Oct 28, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it
It's a surprise to read a new Frame and this slender book is no less spare and clever with words than the rest of her oeuvre.

The reason Frame banned publication of this manuscript in her lifetime becomes clear as you begin reading of the people who guard the memory of the famous New Zealand writer in whose memory the "Watercress Armstrong" Fellowship has been set up.

The Fellowship includes the six months at Menton in South France but such are the poor conditions for writing in the actual Memori
...more
Jessica
Jan 15, 2014 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
An odd little novel by Janet Frame, published 40 years after her death. Supposedly a roman-a-clef and based on her stay in Menton, France as a writing fellow, with a 33-yr-old male New Zealand novelist as protagonist. But any novel by Frame is of interest, furthering as she does the literature of language and consciousness, in the most original of ways.
Tony Nielsen
Apr 26, 2013 Tony Nielsen rated it liked it
I live in Oamaru NZ which is the hometown of renowned Kiwi author, Janet Frame. Janet's position as one of our greats is locked in forever, and In the Memorial Room is another one of her work's which has been discovered and published posthumously. In it we share the experience of Harry Gill, who has been selected as the latest recipient of the Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship, which takes him to the small town of Menton on the Cote D'Azur. Ant that's where things get really strange. Harry is lack ...more
Clarice Stasz
Oct 05, 2015 Clarice Stasz rated it really liked it
I'm in a major Frame binge. This posthumous novel reveals her strength in characterization. (No mental illness!) New Zealand writer Henry Gill goes to Menton, France on a year's memorial fellowship. Henry believes he is going blind, an obsession that colors his experiences. Frame's sense of humor is early apparent, a key couple Henry meets being the Watercresses.


Initially the account is a satire of literary claques, the people who fund fellowships, the descendants of authors, the fans of author
...more
Jim
Jul 28, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
I wonder what the ‘typical’ writer is like. He won’t be Ian Rankin I’m sure. There are of course enough writers out there to ensure that a fair number will be outgoing, photogenic and publicity-savvy. I suspect most writers are not since the primary requirements for a writer are their willingness to spend extended periods of time alone and absorbed with imaginary (if not downright fantastical) things. They don’t stand out in the queue at the butchers or if they do it’s possibly because they look ...more
Chuck
Apr 17, 2014 Chuck rated it liked it
Based on autobiographical events, this novel chronicles a writing fellowship that Janet Frame (a/k/a "Harry Gill") held in France during 1974. In Frame's fictionalized version, the fellowship was set up to honor the deceased poet Rose Hurndell, for whom a "Memorial Room" has been established -- an inhospitable tomb-like structure where Hurndell never actually worked, but in which Gill is expected to spend some time doing his writing. As various relatives and friends of Hurndell attempt to curry ...more
Kathleen
Feb 26, 2014 Kathleen rated it really liked it
I seem to be reading obscure authors these days thanks to the visionaries at my local public library. Janet Frame wrote "In the Memorial Room" in 1974 based on her experiences in Menton, France as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow. She did not want the novel published until after her death (2004) lest it hurt certain people's feelings who might regognize themselves as part of Harry Gill's life trying to write in the squalor of the Rose Hurndell Memorial Room.

Harry Gill, a New Zealander, self-desribed
...more
Susan Emmet
Jan 31, 2014 Susan Emmet rated it liked it
I've only recently come to Janet Frame through several sources.
I can only imagine why she insisted on delaying publication until after her death. Taking on the memory of Katherine Mansfield and all who flutter about her? Hard task.
I liked the spare, clear language, as well as the hard times faced by Harry Gill who doesn't look like a writer. The excoriation of the four couples who manage the memory room and take over Gill's life while he's a Watercress-Armstrong Fellow for six months in Menton,
...more
Peggy
Feb 07, 2014 Peggy rated it it was ok
I needed a change of pace after the book that can no longer be named (without my reverting to Boris-speak again). I had never read any Janet Frame (but always planned to see the Jane Campion movie based on An Angel at the Table). This was on the new shelf, described as previously unpublished. As a friend used to say about really old movies "found in the vaults," there was a reason it was in the vaults. The book started with a certain charm, had a lovely way of capturing the quirks of ex-pat reti ...more
Ian
Nov 06, 2013 Ian rated it really liked it
A minor work from one of my all-time favorite writers of prose, it tells the story of a man who fears he is going blind, only to wake up one day completely deaf. More like a sketch than an actual novel, I still found it a pleasure to read.
Troy Alexander
Nov 06, 2015 Troy Alexander rated it liked it
While this is certainly not up there with Frame's best books such as Faces in the Water, Owls Do Cry, and Living in the Maniototo, it is beautifully written and strange. Passages like the one below is why she is one of my favourite writers.

- Now tell me, Louise said, a small juice of curiosity gathering about her lips - both she and Haniel, as some people do, like dogs, only more discreetly, seemed to be much of the time in a state of salivation. It happens with advancing age, of course - what i
...more
Laura J. W.
Simply, In the Memorial Room is a story about a writer, Harry Gill, and how he became disassembled because he won the Watercress Armstrong Fellowship—but it’s not that simple.

…I believe a writer is not ‘known’ until his grocer and barber have read his works without astonishment… (From p. 21)

I found this fragment highly hysterical at the time—‘without astonishment’ in particular. It’s such a peculiar sensation when ones writing is read—to have it read ‘without astonishment’ is honestly a relief.
...more
Karen
Aug 13, 2014 Karen rated it liked it
A very long time ago I read two of three of Janet Frame's autobiographies; An Angel at my Table and To the Is-land: An Autobiography and they have stayed with me for all these years. I was excited to see a posthumous publication, also based on a true event in her own life though fictionalized roman a clef style. It was a fun book for the reader but I can only imagine what Janet Frame went through as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow given the idiosyncrasies of the founders and keepers of the fellowsh ...more
Mandy
Sep 28, 2013 Mandy rated it liked it
Janet Frame is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed writers, and the publication of a new book by her is always a welcome discovery. She wrote In the Memorial Room in 1974 but wouldn’t allow it to be published in her lifetime, a decision that is only too understandable, as it pokes fun at the literary world and the adulation that sometimes attaches to writers after their death. She feared that certain readers would recognise themselves in the extremely unflattering depictions of her fictional cha ...more
Carol
Jun 01, 2015 Carol rated it liked it
What I like about this book are the chunks of prose that invited me to read and re-read with pleasure, the authority, and talent of the writer. I found it to be an odd story, though there is not really much "story" it is more a description of a mileau that she captures very throughly, but with slight character development besides the narrator himself. I also found it interesting that Frame choose to have her protagonist a male. I kept wondering how much was autobiographical (not that that really ...more
Andrew
Oct 18, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it
Probably an odd choice as the first book to read of Janet Frame's, but I was mainly drawn to this because it was set in the French town of Menton, a place I visited a few years' back, and was only released last year, near a decade after her death. It is satirical, smart, and very clever in the way it lampoons various characters. I'm not sure the transition between reality and mayhem worth smoothly.
Miles Carver
A previously unpublished novel by Janet Frame, In the Memorial Room was written in 1974 and comes out of her experience as a Katherine Mansfield Fellow in Menton, France.

She did not allow publication during her lifetime as she was worried certain readers may recognise an unflattering version of themselves. She was happy for it to be published posthumously, and did use some of the same characters and situations in the highly acclaimed Living In The Maniototo.

Reading this is like finding an unwrap
...more
Jessie
Dec 26, 2014 Jessie rated it it was ok
Perhaps this novel was intended as social satire, but the dreariness of its setting and the depression of the protagonist remained unmitigated. Although I admire Janet Frame both as a writer and as person, I gave up two-thirds of the way through.
Mandy Hager
Oct 04, 2014 Mandy Hager rated it really liked it
It was wonderful to read this while the 2014 KM Fellow, as this book was really a thinly disguised account of Janet's time there. It did so make me laugh - the observations spot on but cuttingly cruel - she captured the ex-pat community to a 't'.
Carol
Nov 01, 2014 Carol rated it it was amazing
So, so pleased that this book was finally published. It is a tremendously clever social satire & I laughed out loud more times than I think I've ever done in my life. I have always loved Janet Frame so feel very grateful that we have this perhaps last (who knows if other manuscripts could show up??) chance to know her wonderful gift with words.
Nicola
Dec 26, 2014 Nicola rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some beautiful turns of phrase and imagery but all a bit rambly for my liking. A strange internal dialogue if an unsettled mind is how it seemed.
Marina
Jan 30, 2014 Marina rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
I should've done a review of this months ago, as I got it from Netgalley. I don't feel equipped now to do a proper review, but I really enjoyed it. It was incredibly fun, in a bittersweet kind of way. It's about a writer and the disintegration of his identity, produced by his own stories and characters inhabiting his head, and accelerated by the neighbours of a small town in New Zealand. The plot was seemingly simple, but there's some great ideas and hard truths in there. Also silly humour, I DI ...more
Briankiwi
Oct 27, 2014 Briankiwi rated it it was ok
Not one of the best Janet Frame books, but some brilliant passages and ideas all the same.
Hilary Lang Greenebaum
.... an old fashioned in joke involving New Zealanders Janet Frame and Katherine Mansfield!Better if you had lots of knowledge about and experience with both authors.
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50302
The fate befalling the young woman who wanted "to be a poet" has been well documented. Desperately unhappy because of family tragedies and finding herself trapped in the wrong vocation (as a schoolteacher) her only escape appeared to be in submission to society's judgement of her as abnormal. She spent four and a half years out of eight years, incarcerated in mental hospitals. The story of her alm ...more
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