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Owls Do Cry

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,149 ratings  ·  118 reviews
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.
Paperback, 210 pages
Published March 1st 1982 by George Braziller (first published 1957)
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,149 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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Did I enjoy reading this? No, but that is because of the subject matter. This is a book about the mentally ill, the physically ill, aging and death. It records the darker side of human behavior; how humans behave toward the impoverished, the ill and the aging. The portrayal is uncomfortably accurate.

This was Janet Frame's first novel and it has strong autobiographical elements. She was incorrectly institutionalized as a schizophrenic. She was institutionalized for a decade but avoided a lobotom
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: if chemistry could silence the lion's laugh I'd be fine
Recommended to Mariel by: I don't know hell but I've read about it often
You would think this night that the world sated with blossom and love and death would finish and there would be no memory of it anywhere, save perhaps on a cave wall of new time, where the posturing figures dance unseen their stillness of clay or chalk or stone.
You would think all this on a spring night.
Except the thinking is not real.

The feeling I had a lot when reading Owls Do Cry was of looking out of the corner of your eye. When looking at it full on whatever you expected to see was not ther
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Janet Frame is another one of those authors whose books I ration. I discovered Frame's work after I fell for Jane Campion's work. The Piano led to An Angel at My Table, which was based on Frame's autobiography of the same name and some of her other work. Frame died a few years ago after a life of tragedy, astounding accomplishments, and gorgeous writing. Some writers wish they would write like Dickinson or Faulkner or Shakespeare . . . I wish I could write like Frame.

Owls Do Cry was Frame's fir
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oceania, 5-stelle
”Il mondo dell’infanzia si ingrandisce a ogni ricordo e ce lo poniamo come un mantello fatato sulle spalle. Ma io ora tornerò a Waimaru e scoprirò che il mio mantello, come la pelle di zigrino, si rimpicciolisce a ogni desiderio, e mi ritroverò fra le mani solo un brandello frusto e grinzoso.”

Ecco. L’ho finito. Sono in quello momento di vuoto; ferita come fossi vittima di un recente abbandono.
Mi accingo a scrivere qualcosa di questo libro.
Si dice “fare un commento a caldo”.
Che strano: io se
Domenico Fina
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Molto bello, molto triste. Gridano i gufi (1957) primo romanzo di Janet Frame. Pubblicato quando la scrittrice neozelandese aveva 33 anni. Il titolo è bellissimo, nel verso originale Shakespeariano i gufi piangono (Owls do cry). In italiano è più bello con l'allitterazione della g e col grido, nel libro, più appropriato del pianto. La storia di una famiglia trafelata dalla vita in una cittadina neozelandese. Tre bambine e un bambino nella prima parte e poi la loro vita vent'anni dopo. Un bambino ...more
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is the first Janet Frame book I have ever read so her writing took some getting used to at first - she has her own style which is kind of semi-stream-of-consciousness. She uses punctuation in a very interesting way and some sentences call for a re-read. Once you get the hang of it you realise how rich, deep and beautifully poetic her writing is.

The book is based in 1950s New Zealand and follows the story of one family from Dunedin in the South Island, and goes in-depth into the characters o
Jun 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The children of a poor family in New Zealand, the Withers, spend their days searching through rubbish heaps for childish treasures, fearing and suspicious of much (their hard-working, simple father, the nurse at school, the day when they must go face the factories and mills of the adult world). After the eldest girl dies horrifically, the book jumps twenty years ahead: we now see that the youngest is married and trying, poorly, to get on in higher society; Daphne is mute and in a grim mental ins ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
I was debating on whether to listen to the audio or read the book, so I asked the friend that I heard about it from what I should do. His (rather wise) reply was that he actually did both simultaneously. Somehow this felt to me like I was wasting some time but I decided to try anyway. I struggled at first but it really did end up being the best way to experience this book. It gave it a much more three dimensional character. Throughout the book there were these cockeyed, slightly surreal scenes w ...more
Lee Foust
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Owls Do Cry is Janet Frame's first novel, the third of her novels that I've read since joining Goodreads, and my fourth overall. While I seem to recall I was a bit more puzzled than blown away by the first novel of hers that I read, Scented Gardens for the Blind, now that I've read and so loved her first three, I must return to that one, her fourth. (Sadly, I just left it behind in Florence and I'm now in San Francisco for the summer. --insert unhappy face emoticon here.)

Like Frame's second and
Richard Derus
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating: The Full Five

Absolutely my favorite Kiwi novel. I learned so much about the national character of the country I feel I should have been born in.
Sandy Hogarth
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started to read Owls Do Cry as research for my second novel as I cannot decide whether my protagonist is sent to prison or a Closed Psychiatric Unit. Well, it has helped me decide. It will be prison.

Despite the painfulness of the subject matter what a delight the language is, especially when it is Daphne’s story. It is the story of the Withers family: Francie, Toby, who is epileptic, Chicks the baby of the family and Daphne with her wonderful and damaging imagination. And what an extraordinary
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've never read anything like this. It breaks all kind of "rules" - the verb tense shifts, unconventional punctuation and sentence structure, etc. There isn't really a main character. There's a main family, but I couldn't pick any one of its members as a protagonist. But it works. It works REALLY well.

The story chronicles the lives of a poor family in a small town called Waimaru in New Zealand. There's plenty of dialog and action. The characters are clear and well-developed. But the sentences of
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is genius writing. And, beautiful. And, brave.
It's a bit squeamish-making, which is why I'm not putting this on my "favorites" shelf, but I vehemently recommend it, nevertheless.

If you haven't seen An Angel at My Table, the film about Janet Frame's life, I recommend that as well.

Thank you, again, Jo!
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Janet Frame's first novel gets you right from the first chapter, just from the way she uses words. I went back and read that over a couple of times before going on, just because the rhythm and the sound of the words rolled around nicely.

Overall, I think it was the language and writing most of all that appeals in this book, although there are also moments where bits and pieces of a character are neatly skewered and laid out for understanding that were great. The epilogue might have been a little
Owls Do Cry is Janet Frame’s first full-length novel and was hailed as a critical success from the start. First published in 1957 and recently reissued in a 50th anniversary edition (on which this audio book is based), it is the tragic story of the Withers family, from a small town in New Zealand.

The first chapters about the poverty-stricken childhood of Francie, Daphne, Toby and ‘Chicks’ will bring a lump to the throat for most readers. The descriptions of how the ‘dirty’ children are treated
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
This is a heartbreaking account of tragedy and alienation, but it takes a human scale. Frame's writing is elliptical and poetic, and the story by turns emerges from and dissolves back into her description of the emotional and physical worlds of her characters. She exposes the vulnerability of every character in a way that is both raw and compassionate. Every character--no matter how brief their appearance in the story--struggles with the tremendous weight of their existence in a different way. T ...more
Jade Lopert
Nov 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended by my grandma and sitting on my bookshelf for years, so we'll see? <-------before reading
After reading -------->
Ever read one of those books that is too metaphoric for it's own good? This is it. Once I finally figured out what was going on I liked it. But it took awhile to figure out what that was with so much of it being buried in vagueness. I also generally don't like walking away from a book feeling like nothing really happened. No characters really progressed or changed or
Jan 16, 2009 added it
This is why I get mad at the publishing industry sometimes. This book should be a classic--it's up there w. such stream of conciousness toucstones as Ulysses and To the lighthouse--the most fascinating language and steeliest eye, clever motifs and full of well earned heart ache though never sentimental
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Realistic, heartbreaking, and the most humanly depressing thing I've ever read. This is going to take me months to get over.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An unsettling and utterly original work of genius, Owls Do Cry heralded the arrival of Janet Frame on the international literary scene and kicked off a period of staggering creativity in which she would publish nine novels in fifteen years. Owls Do Cry chronicles the lives of the Withers siblings, Daphne, Chicks (Teresa), Toby and Francie. Growing up in coastal Waimaru (based on Frame’s home town of Oamaru), the children are raised by their well-meaning, unsophisticated parents in a home with fe ...more
I cheat-read this book. I read enough of it to follow what was happening and to feel the mood, but I skipped over significant portions of it. I feel a bit guilty about this for a review, but I am going to review it anyway. The book is masterful - in language, in structure, in characterization, but it is also too much, for me at least. It is the kind of writing that people who actually know something about literature really love: evocative, deep, metaphorical. But I, unfortunately, am much more p ...more
Having read three of Frame's works previous to this in my usually haphazardly headlong fashion, I can say with confidence that this is one of her more straightforward pieces. A surprising statement to the average reader, perhaps, but that doesn't mean I don't value this work as much as her others. INdeed, the lack kof quotes that usually pepper my reviews is due to a general brilliance of prose that happened to not condense itself nicely enough for any sort of any one to three sentence excision, ...more
Dillwynia Peter
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very deliberate poetic & lyrical novel; unfortunately the interesting punctuation & italics is lost when read as an audiobook. However, overall, the effect is the same.

This is a simple family drama- how will the family react to a death of an young adult child. All the characters are strong & believable. Father is laconic; mum only recognises one illness in the family - Toby's epilepsy; and the children grow up with various faults. No one is perfect in this book.

My favourite
Laura J. W.
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Starting on page one... "The Day is early with birds beginning and the wren in a cloud piping like the child in the poem, drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe..." this book knocked the wind out of me, and did so on more than one occasion...I couldn't put it down, but forced myself to so I could absorb it in small bites...most definitely a "read it again someday" book. My copy is dog-eared with favorite bits, in some cases, if the bits spilled over to the next page, I dog-eared the bottom corner to indi ...more
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Owls Do Cry is one of those novels that is written very well, in an interesting manner, although I found it difficult to understand exactly what the storyline was.

I decided to read Owls Do Cry for the topic studied in the 1st half of the year (social injustice) because my parents recommended it to me.

This category is fairly interesting, it reveals the things that are/have been wrong with our society and world. It isn't a genre I'd particularly go for if I was book browsing.

I am inclined to be
Text Publishing
‘Owls Do Cry glows with the inner light of (Frame’s) human awareness—a cool flame that neither cauterises nor heals but in some mystic ways purifies, substituting an essential beauty for superficial pain and squalor.’
Sunday Herald Tribune

‘When I first read it at 14, the same age as Daphne is in the novel…her dark eloquent song captured my heart.’
Jane Campion

‘Owls Do Cry is a devastating reflection on the character of conventional society and the dangers that await those who reject its narrowness
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This should really be a 5 star rating and y'all know it. I have just put off reading a Janet Frame novel for the longest time. I've got quite the collection of her works, love her poetry and stories, fell in love with her when I had to read THE BATH at high school and of course have several unread novels lying on my shelves in wait. Part 1 of her autobiography ruined me. I couldn't read again (for the summer at least). I allowed myself to put her novels on a pedestal and so my expectations were ...more
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly one of the saddest books I’ve read in a long time, but totally lacking in sentiment or self-pity. Owls Do Cry has elements of Frame’s own childhood but it is not autobiographical. It is the story of an ordinary New Zealand family seen from a different person’s perspective throughout the novel, namely the three surviving children of Bill and Amy Withers: Toby, the son who has epilepsy; Daphne, the daughter in a mental institution and Theresa (aka Chicks), the “normal” one with social asp ...more
Apr 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This a beautiful very arresting novel. It covers Janet Frame's early life in New Zealand but in fiction rather than autobiography. Frame does things in this novel that would never be allowed in a Cr Wr workshop (with point of view, for ex. and time frame) and the novel is stunningly original as a result. I recommend it.
Dec 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I tried to finish this book but I had to give up, it was a real chore. I read things because I enjoy them but this felt like I was back at school and had to read it. I admit that it does seem to be an interesting story and I agree with a lot of other people that it is written in a very poetic way but it was just far too hard for me.
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Goodreads Librari...: Missing cover 2 16 Jan 04, 2015 02:50PM  
500 Great Books B...: Owls Do Cry - Janet Frame 1 4 Jul 15, 2014 03:19PM  
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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
“She grew more and more silent about what really mattered. She curled inside herself like one of those black chimney brushes, the little shellfish you see on the beach, and you touch them, and then go inside and don’t come out.” 22 likes
“The day is early with birds beginning and the wren in a cloud piping like the child in the poem, drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe. And the place grows bean flower, pea-green lush of grass, swarm of insects dizzily hitting the high spots; dunny rosette creeping covering shawl ream in a knitted cosy of roses; ah the tipsy wee small hours of insects that jive upon the crippled grass blades and the face of the first flower alive.” 1 likes
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