Dark and autobiographical fable

THE MIJO TREE<br><b>Janet Frame, illustrations Deidre Copeland</b><br><i>Penguin</i>
THE MIJO TREE<br><b>Janet Frame, illustrations Deidre Copeland</b><br><i>Penguin</i>
The Mijo Tree is the last of the late Janet Frame's previously unreleased manuscripts to be published posthumously.

The novella, in small hardback form, is in essence a dark adult fable.

It tells the tale of a young mijo seed who is determined to leave her natural place on the valley's forest floor to grow on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean. A handsome and gentle wind, with whom she falls in love, carries her there, but gives his life in the process. Frame's moral is clear: be careful what you wish for. There is more love to come, but life on the rocky clifftop is harsh and lonely, and the natural cycle of life inevitable.

As with much of her work, this novella is autobiographical and too obviously personal for her to publish at the time. It was written in 1957 after Frame had left NZ and sought artistic refuge in Ibiza. There she had her first romantic relationship, which ended, and she had a miscarriage.

The themes of love and loss, life and death, innocence and experience are reworked here, but Frame's rich sense of black humour also shines through.

The stunningly detailed black-and-white illustrations by Cromwell artist Deidre Copeland add significantly to this poignant and timeless tale by one of our literary greats.

- Helen Speirs is ODT books editor.

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