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D by Jayne Workman

Nelly Dean to Daphne Withers

How would the pragmatic, no-nonsense housekeeper, Nelly Dean, in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights address the fragile, ephemeral, poetically-minded Daphne Withers in Janet Frame’s Owls Do Cry ?


Pre-industrial Yorkshire seems a long way from post-war provincial New Zealand but, in these favourite books, there’s common ground - darkness, incarceration, mental breakdown, the mills, a connection with nature. Young girls from poor families were seldom heard. I wanted to find the real Nelly behind Lockwood’s narrow representation and bring into focus the shimmering Daphne from the kaleidoscope of viewpoints through which she is shown, and somehow free them both.

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