In August 2009 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from the University of Otago in recognition of her outstanding contribution to New Zealand literature. (Thanks to McRobie Studios, Dunedin for the photograph.)
Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg says the honorary doctorate recognises Barbara Anderson’s intellectual and artistic achievements, and the high regard in which she is held nationally and internationally. Barbara Anderson joins the company of other distinguished writers to whom this University has awarded honorary degrees in the past – people such as Janet Frame, Ruth Dallas and Cilla McQueen, he says. She has had a remarkable second career as a writer, and is renowned for her mastery of both the novel and the short story, showing great understanding of human nature and critical clarity.
Her autobiography Getting Therewas published in November 2008 and Kate de Goldi called it the best New Zealand autobiography since Janet Frame's.
She is however best known as a novelist and short story writer. Her last novel was Change of Heart (VUP 2003). The Swing Aroundwas published in November 2001 and was nominated for the 2003 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her short stories have been published in many magazines including Metro, Landfall, London Magazine, Sport and the Listener. Barbara has also written for the stage. One of her unpublished plays won the J.C. Reid award in 1985 and several have been broadcast.In 1991 Barbara was Writing Fellow at Victoria University of Wellington.
Her first collection of short stories, I think we should go into the jungle was shortlisted for the Wattie Award in 1989 and the 1990 New Zealand Book Award for Fiction.Portrait of the Artist’s Wifewon the Wattie Award in 1992 and has been reprinted 6 times, most recently in October 2002 with a beautiful new cover by award-winning designer Sarah Maxey.
In November 2005 Barbara's Collected Stories were published. This collects work previously published in I think we should go into the jungle and The Peacocks and also some unpublished stories.
Barbara Anderson is among New Zealand’s most respected and best-selling authors. All her books have been published and well received in the UK.
‘A quite irresistible writer with a microscopic eye for telltale detail – and a dazzlingly accurate ear for dialogue as it is really spoken.’ –Dirk Bogarde
‘Barbara Anderson is a born writer.’ –Nick Hornby
Praise for Change of Heart
This is Barbara Anderson really on her game... The plot is beautifully handled, with enough twists to maintain pace without seeming ludicrous. Anderson somehow manages to imbue the plot with the conviction that reality really is stranger than fiction, and combines a series of bizarre coincidences and miscommunications into an entirely believable situation. Anderson compassionately trains her magnifying glass on human behaviour and gently illuminates the potential in us all to change and grow. The ending is satisfyingly bizarre, and it was with regret that I put the book down. Laura Keddell THE PRESS
This novel could perhaps be accused of being quite slight. But it is also a delightful book which can be guaranteed to make you forget much of the weariness of daily life. Peter Wells NZ HERALD
The book's Dickensian denouement, involving love, marriage and inheritance, could seem too poundingly big-hearted, but Anderson manages it with considerable aplomb. A skilful mixer of comedy and compassion, she clears the blocked arteries of preconception in her readers as well as in her protagonist. David Grylls SUNDAY TIMES (UK)
Praise for The Swing Around Anderson writes some cracking dialogue and is astute as well as funny. She is adept at creating near-farcical situations, but invests her characters with enough depth to make her readers care what becomes of them. Pam Barrett SUNDAY TIMES (UK)
While this is a lighthearted, funny and at times improbably farcical story, there is a serious thread running through it. Found in all of Anderson’s novels, it draws upon the infinite variations of courtly, friendly and passionate love between people. Penelope Bieder NZ HERALD
. . . it fizzes and crackles with Anderson’s comic vision - savage and compassionate by turns - which makes it a pleasure to read. Margot Schwass EVENING POST ...Anderson’s cleverness is a withering combination of acute, mischievous observation of human frailties (especially those of self-deception and self-preservation), expressed with a precision rarely seen in the English novel since Austin. . . . This book is a delight. Jane Stafford NZ LISTENER The Swing Around is a clever twirl through a series of political events and personal relationships; it is funny, warm and wry, with some acute observation. Anderson brings wisdom as well as wit to her work. Denise Irvine WAIKATO TIMES
Praise for Long Hot Summer
. . . it's blithely told, warm and charming, but it's also loaded with sly humour and twists. Karin Warnaar THE PRESS
. . . it's a damned good read. Denise Irvine WAIKATO TIMES
Her world of rocky headlands and Anzac biscuits and beach picnics simply provides a reassuringly familiar backdrop for a fresh new story. Sarah Quigley EVENING POST
At last, like rain after a drought, a new Barbara Anderson novel, cool, fresh, penetrating. Molly Anderson OTAGO DAILY TIMES
In Long Hot Summer, Barbara Anderson does what she always does so well. As usual, the characters are beautifully and sparingly drawn. . . words are precisely, exquisitely chosen. . . the dialogue crackles and hums, and the alternative narrative voices are well differentiated and sustained. . .There is a well-rationed emotional energy that gives the narrative moments of powerful gravity to counterpoint the comedy. Margot Schwass LANDFALL This is writing of a high order, which amply confirms Barbara Anderson's unusual talent. Elizabeth Lowry TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT
Anderson's view of the world is both clear-sighted and kind. This is a rare combination and rarer still to find it expressed in such beautiful, delicate, resilient prose. Jane Shilling TELEGRAPH
Barbara Anderson's new novel Long Hot Summer bears the title of a steamy blockbuster but the New Zealander's fluid prose shows her to be a subtle and humorous writer. Patricia Deevy IMAGE A fine and sharp intelligence infuses Anderson's characters and dialogue. This is comedy with edge, bite and purpose. . . Elizabeth Buchan THE TIMES Long Hot Summer is a joy to read. Mark Sanderson TIME OUT
In breathtakingly honest and funny prose, Anderson creates a world that simply jumps with life and meaning, with joy and disappointment and hope. Kirsty Gunn HERALD
. . . it is an utterly satisfying read. It is the sheer depth of the characterisation, the enviably masterful handling of dialogue. The people, the people, the people. It would be so much easier to review if I could pick away at its little faults. But dammit, it has none. Linda Burgess NEW ZEALAND BOOKS
Praise for The Peacocks
Here Barbara Anderson shows how . it's done. And people who want to read short stories for pleasure, to be charmed and intrigued, need look no further than this book. Joan Curry PRESS Economical, probing, and original, Anderson is an immaculate stylist. Joy Mackenzie SUNDAY STAR TIMES
The skillful arrangement of these stories, the vivid descriptions of life in New Zealand - at the beach, in the city or small towns - and Barbara Anderson's art in balancing complexity with humorous compassion, make this collection very satisfying. Catharina van Bohemen EVENING POST No false notes here, but thoughtfully crafted stories. . . which leave you musing over meanings. Patricia Thwaites OTAGO DAILY TIMES The stories are studded with precise telling images that stand out like clean-cut jewels. . . Margot Schwass LISTENER Barbara Anderson is a wonderful short story writer. DAILY POST
. . . you're in for a treat. Elizabeth Crayford DOMINION
Praise for I think we should go into the jungle . . . this must be one of the sharpest collections in English since Carver's Cathedral in 1984. Anderson has an important gift: she notices everything. She's been compared to Flaubert, and the comparison does not seem senselessly extravagant. She is able to convey how people get on with each other in the briefest of dialogues. . . Barbara Anderson's stories are about love, grief and everyday emotional erosion; about our intuitive sense of larger meaning; about the daily preoccupations that block our view of those intuitions. They are freighted with experience, fresh with insight, told with a mature economy that knows where civilised behaviour stops and the jungle within begins. Michael Hulse GUARDIAN WEEKLY
Her work has the assurance , the verbal dexterity, and the solidity of specification that marks the professional. Paul Day WAIKATO TIMES Never portentous, never trivial, marvelously comic but with grey skeins of pathos, this is surely among the most powerful collections of stories produced in New Zealand. Its unerring economy of effects suggests at times the quality of a Flaubert, a Patrick White,a Grace Paley. To have achieved such brilliance in a first book is remarkable. Ian Reid LISTENER
Praise for Girls High Barbara Anderson is an important writer with a unique voice. Margaret Chistensen WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE . . .a wonderfully observant, amusing, and finely crafted novel. Cathy O'Connell WAIKATO TIMES Anderson writes this with a wild, inventive glee which puts her among the forefront of female writers who are enjoying women's newly recovered. . . sense of humour. Fiona Kidman DOMINION SUNDAY TIMES She has a gift for shrewd observation, acerbic comment and clever comedy which moves easily from near slapstick to subtle wit. David Eggleton OTAGO DAILY TIMES
The prose of Barbara Anderson prods, darts, dazzles on the page. Girls High, her first novel, is thrilling to read. Mary Varnham LISTENER
Praise for Portrait of the Artist's Wife Portrait of the Artist's Wife is full of love and wisdom, of immense understanding of what really happens between women and men. Stephanie Johnson EVENING POST
She really is world class — her writing's like a richly detailed painting, she gets the details just right. Sharon Crosbie EVENING POST It is a testament to Anderson's style and skill as a writer that these places and decades are brought to the page with such energy, yet also with such a finely judged mix of humour and sympathy. Caroline Wilder SUNDAY STAR Barbara Anderson treats her readers like favored guests. She entertains with skill and panache; she is never boring or long-winded, and she subtly flatters us by implying that we share her worldly and trenchant views on certain types of human beings. She charms us with words. Sue McCauley LISTENER & TV TIMES
. . . understated brilliance Sally Staples INTERNATIONAL EXPRESS This is well written and filled with honesty, comedy and sadness. I enjoyed it immensely. Lyn McDonald WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE
Barbara Anderson has produced here an accomplished, enjoyable and eminently readable novel. Margaret Quigley PRESS This is a moving, universal novel, a pleasure to read. Sophy Kershaw TIME OUT
Barbara Anderson's novel is a rarity; an unadulterated, unpretentious, enjoyable read. Julie Morrice GLASGOW HERALD This is a fierce and funny book . . . Kathryn Mead SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
She has a magician's touch for transforming the mundane into the compelling and can lace even her saddest scenes with the right touch of comedy. Sally Staples SUNDAY EXPRESS The promise that was evident in Girls High has been splendidly fulfilled, and now it seems only a matter of time before Wellington replaces New York as the literary capital of the world. Nick Hornby SUNDAY TIMES It is an enormously entertaining book with perceptions so true they leave you glowing in startled recognition. Patricia Thwaites OTAGO DAILY TIMES
Praise for All the Nice Girls . . . a romp of a novel, spiked with surprises. Graeme Lay NORTH & SOUTH Anderson has woven a wonderful love story set against the mundane rituals of everyday life in New Zealand. It is a story told with humour, and compassion. Suzanne Chetwin WAIKATO TIMES
. . . quite simply, a gem. Mary Raphael LISTENER . . . one of the most rewarding novels of recent years. Iain Sharp SUNDAY STAR It is tightly written, closely observed, beautifully constructed — a novel by a writer who has mastered her craft. Ian Gordon NZ HERALD
Praise for The House Guest
. . . a rich, likable, intelligent novel Philip Tew PRESS
. . . plausible, well told, fast and fun Lydia Wevers EVENING POST This is an excellent books from an accomplished writer. John Daniell CAPITAL TIMES
Anderson writes an enthralling story. While there is plenty to ponder on, the light touch of a writer working at her assured best means that the reader is treated to a wide range of philosophical and social observations in a constantly entertaining way. The combination of family history and literary whodunit has hardly been better achieved anywhere. Simon Garrett DOMINION . . . Barbara Anderson's new novel is a colourful, quirky, lively creation. The direct, unpretentious style of this New Zealand writer belies her complex seriousness and makes The House Guest a pleasure to read. Katie Owen SUNDAY TELEGRAPH Every character in this novel is a little masterpiece, brought to life in Anderson's idiomatic, jumpy sentences. This is a writer with flawless observation and an offhand knack of making you forget just how clever she is. Penny Perrick TIMES
Praise for Proud Garments She is a novelist of great talent, well qualified to write black comedy. But she has, too, the comprehension of human incomprehension, the pity for human pity, that makes it possible to write tragedy. Penelope Fitzgerald TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT She brings a considerable wisdom to the craft, combining generosity and tenderness with an unflinching eye. To the last line, her story and characters continue to reveal themselves. Carol Birch INDEPENDENT Anderson's writing is emotionally intelligent, forgiving of human nature and gently funny. Gill Pyrah SUNDAY TELEGRAPH Proud Garments is a great pleasure: the plot is energetic and satisfyingly coherent, the characters are full of surprises, and above all there is the Anderson wit, that sharp eye and sharp ear for the peculiar within the ordinary. Kate Grenville LANDFALL
Reading Anderson is exhilarating. Leo Colston TIME OUT
Proud Garments will be enjoyed by admirers of Barbara Anderson's deft, witty and often pungent prose. Graeme Lay NORTH & SOUTH What a writer this woman is! I love her astringent wit and wisdom, her comic gift, her respect for language, her earthy humanity. She writes as an artist paints, seeing the shadows beneath the surface, the spaces in between. Molly Anderson OTAGO DAILY TIMES This is not so much a book review as a gush. I loved Proud Garments . . . I realise that I need to be a little more analytical about this book, and indeed it seems to me a perfect text to demonstrate the kind of pleasure the reading of fiction constitutes. From the first sentence . . . one feels complete confidence - not just in the story, or in the characterisation, which are both absolutely skillful, but in the style, the tone, the atmosphere, those intangibles which envelope and reassure the reader. Jane Staffford EVENING POST