I've returned to my passion which is a good memoir or diary, writes Wendyl Nissen
I'm carefully reading Auē by Becky Manawatu because a good friend gave it to me for my birthday and she knows what I like. I love the characters and the beautiful writing but at the moment it's getting quite dark and Once Were Warriors-like and I have to be careful about that because I get very sad. Somewhere along the way I lost the ability to keep myself separate from stories and I find I get very involved emotionally. So I'm having a wee break, then I'll return to it on a sunny, carefree day when I can handle it and keep the demons from my door.
Meanwhile, I've returned to my passion, which is a good memoir or diary. Hugo Vickers does great memoirs and I'm enjoying The Sphinx: The Life of Gladys Deacon- Duchess of Marlborough, which he rewrote last year. I'm fascinated by the lives of women in the early 1900s and have devoured all the Mitford sisters' books, most of Virginia Woolf's diaries, Frances Patridge's diaries and Cynthia Asquith's diaries.
I have just finished a couple of Germaine Greer books. Her search for her father, called Daddy We Hardly Knew You, I found disappointing as the actual search and discovery took up the equivalent of a few chapters and the rest was just fill-in stuff that I had no interest in whatsoever.
I am fascinated by Germaine, so I followed that up with the 2018 biography by Elizabeth Kleinhenz called The Life of Germaine Greer, which was written entirely from Germaine's archive that she sold to the University of Melbourne for millions of dollars. I loved imagining Germaine in her rustic Italian home with terracotta tiles, tapping out essays and books on her typewriter with her garden outside the window and her cat on her lap.
I am finishing up writing a book about my mother Elis Nissen's life and have just re-read Ronald Hugh Morrieson's Came A Hot Friday, as one of the characters I discovered in my mother's family was a horse trainer called Percy who worked near Hāwera, where Morrieson lived and set all his books. I have loved Morrieson's writing since I was a teenager; I have a couple of his signed first editions I treasure and a framed photo of him above my desk which I stole from the Auckland Star library when I worked there in the early 1980s.
A Natural Year: Living Simply Through the Seasons by Wendyl Nissen (Allen and Unwin NZ, $45) is out now.