Tuesday, 26 January 2010

There Was A Time - Dorothy Butler

There Was A Time (1999) is the first volume of an autobiography by New Zealand children's book author Dorothy Butler. It chronicles her childhood, growing up in various parts of Auckland, until her days at Auckland University College.

Butler seems like an old friend, an aunt, or a kindly neighbour; she paints a picture of her childhood in such a way that it seems like you would fit in perfectly with her memories. They are warm, humorous, comfortable, and familiar. I learned several new words: lorgnette, peroration, grandiloquence, and exigencies, but the text is still very readable.

The family moved many times during Butler's 'typical Kiwi' childhood, yet the children's ability to make new friends, as well as her mother's incredible resilience towards whatever circumstances they faced, meant that new 'adventures' occurred and life continued happily. The descriptions of her schooling at Auckland Girls' Grammar School in the 1940s are incredibly entertaining. The recurring theme throughout is Butler's love of reading which, alongside a very active childhood outdoors, took up every other spare moment. This ultimately led to her becoming an award-winning international children's author and owning her own bookshop.

There Was A Time is a delightful summer read. I now look forward to reading the second installment of Butler's autobiography, All This and a Bookshop Too (2009).

No comments: