Review Blog

Aug 05 2014

The Mijo Tree by Janet Frame

cover image

Ill. by Deidre Copeland. Penguin, 2013. ISBN 9780143569428.
(Age: Adult and mature secondary readers) Published posthumously in 2013 like Janet Frame's novel, In the Memorial Room, The Mijo Tree is a thought-provoking fable for adults. Deceptively, it looks like a beautiful hardback children's gift book, with its illustrated feature borders, minimal written text and story which follows the eldest mijo seed.
This seed is proud and restless. She chafes at a future in the valley, growing gradually to supplant her striking mother-tree, and so beguiles an ill wind to carry her to the hill-top. The wind's flagging health and the barren vista of their journey add to an ominous tone which has already been signalled by the seed's foolhardy vanity and pride. Janet Frame skilfully escalates tension with the wasted opportunities the seed has to escape a barren fate and return to her true home.
The writing is poetic and allusive. The seed is warned, 'Why, up on the hill and over the other side flies the giant bird of thirst and darkness whose feathers hide the sun.' Personification is also used to embody the main characters - the seed, the wind and the goat. The text seems to echo some of Frame's own life and experiences and students will benefit from reading the 'Afterword' which illuminates some of the uniquely secret writing of The Mijo Tree.
Joy Lawn

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