Read a review of Raiment on takahē


Elizabeth Heritage has reviewed Raiment: A memoir by Jan Kemp for takahē. She writes:

‘Poet Jan Kemp has released the first volume of her memoir, Raiment, telling the story of her first 25 years of life, from 1949 to 1974. Her childhood was what many would consider normal: a white middle-class upbringing, mum and dad and three kids in mid-century rural New Zealand. Like a lot of people who end up writing memoirs, Kemp is intelligent and highly educated, so the first half of Raiment holds no great surprises: she does well at school, especially English, and gets into university, where she joins the literati. That’s when the story really gets going.

Raiment is told in an earnest, flower-child voice that I found sometimes charming and other times frustrating. I wanted more in the way of critical reflection. Living through the pandemic and the various other apocalypses currently on offer has taught me to crave certainty from the written word; so I wanted conclusion, and neatness, and lessons. But that isn’t what Kemp is doing. Her dreaminess does at least mean she is remarkably free from bitterness or resentment despite everything she has had to cope with. There are lots of lovely moments of joy, such as when she learns to drive: 

“I passed the licence test with flying colours, even doing a three-point turn perfectly. You mean turn around and go back the other way? Zoom, zoom, zoom and I’d done it.” (p. 170)’

Read the rest of the review here.