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Godwit Still Flying After 64 Years

"The Godwits Fly" is acknowledged as a classic New Zealand novel. It was completed in 1937, first published in 1938 and has been in print continuously since 1970. Even in 2001 this novel of the 1930s still holds its own as a great work and Auckland University Press has just released a new edition, using the original 1930s cover but with a brand new introduction and notes by Patrick Sandbrook.

Interest in Robin Hyde within and beyond New Zealand is very strong and continues to increase. Much of what she wrote in the 1930s is only now being published, long after her death.

This new edition brings up to date what is known about how Hyde constructed "The Godwits Fly", how it relates to other writing of her time and how it fits with all the other writing Hyde was doing.

Since "The Godwits Fly" (1938) was first edited in 1970, a huge amount of new information has come to light. This new edition incorporates what is now known about how Hyde constructed the novel, how it relates to other writing of her time and how it fits with all the other writing Hyde was doing.

Editor Patrick Sandbrook says, “Robin Hyde is now acknowledged to have been a tough-minded and intelligent woman who was fully in tune with what was going on in the world of ideas and with issues that are still relevant for New Zealand society.”

“The Godwits Fly isn’t seen as a simple story of New Zealand childhood or about a colonial yearning for England, as it once was. It is about universal themes and complex characters, but without labouring the writing and without losing a real sense of lived experience.”

Patrick Sandbrook wrote a PhD thesis on Robin Hyde, “Robin Hyde: A writer at work”. It started out as a bibliographical study of some of her papers and manuscripts, but it took off from there when he got hooked on her writing and inspired by her intensity.

Pat had had a received view of Hyde as a gushy and naive writer, emotionally unstable and having shown at best unfulfilled promise – the antithesis of what "true" New Zealand Literature of the 1930s was about.

“This was patently rubbish. What I found when I paid attention to what she wrote rang true -- the images and her way with words stuck with me.”

It was also clear from her manuscripts and letters that Hyde took writing seriously and worked hard to discover and refine her own style. She wrote bravely and honestly – about New Zealand and China, about past and present events, about real and imaginary people. She got up close to her subject and breathed its air. Her writing was wholeheartedly about real people, families and friendships, places and preoccupations that mattered deeply to her and she wrote in such a way that he was drawn into that world.

As he got to know it better, Pat admired her writing for being well put together, resonant and moving, yet without seeming at all artful. “I tried to capture that in my thesis and it is still true of what I feel when I re-read 'The Godwits Fly' and her other books.”

Just recently a group -- Dr Mary Paul, Dr Michele Leggott, Derek and Lyn Challis (Derek is Hyde’s son) and Lisa Docherty – has got together to work on Hyde’s writing. The group is supported by a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund grant.

Pat says, “It has been exciting to share ideas and to see Derek and Lyn bring the first full biography together, Michele pulling a vast collection of her poetry into shape, Mary start to piece together her autobiography, Lisa explore her letters to friends and other writers. We now have a much fuller picture of Hyde’s relevance and a truer sense of the breadth of her talents.”

Patrick Sandbrook has worked for more than 15 years at Massey University in Palmerston North, first in the Department of English teaching mainly New Zealand literature, then as Course Advisor for Extramural students, and more recently as head of various sections of student administrative services. Currently he is Director of National Student Relations, in charge of the Massey University call centre, core web and print information and student recruitment services. Patrick has written articles and given conference papers on NZ literature as well as on aspects of tertiary student management.

Cathy and Patrick Sandbrook live in the village of Ashhurst at the mouth of the Manawatu Gorge and with a great view of the Tararuas and the windmills of the country's first windfarm. Their five children are independent now and live nearby. Not far away in Hawke's Bay are the farms and small towns where he grew up and where others of his family still live and work.

Pat Sandbrook is available for interview.

The Godwits Fly by Robin Hyde New edition, March 2001 Edited and introduced by Patrick Sandbrook $24.95; paperback


Christine O'Brien Marketing Manager Auckland University Press PB 92019, Auckland

Tel: (64-9) 373-7999 x 5735 Fax: (64-9) 373-7465 -------------------------------------------- New titles from AUP:

"Never Lost For Words" Amelia Batistich (An unusual and delightful memoir, illustrated by short stories, from a writer who first chronicled the experience of non-British immigrants in NZ. PB; ISBN 1 86940 246 4; $29.95)

"The Godwits Fly" Robin Hyde; Introduced by Patrick Sandbrook (A classic NZ novel, first published in 1938 and never out of print since 1970. Her writing still rings true today – the images and her way with words are striking; her NZ is genuine and recognisable; her writing is wholeheartedly about real people, families and friendships, places and preoccupations that mattered deeply to her. PB; 1 86940 245 6; $24.95) --------------------------------------------

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