Fletcher, Beryl

Fletcher, Beryl



In Brief

Beryl Fletcher was a novelist. Her first novel The Word Burners (1991) won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in the Asia/Pacific region, and it was selected as one of the top twenty books in the NZ Listener Women's Book Festival (1991). Her short fiction was published in literary journals, and she was granted a number of fellowships and residencies. A House at Karamu (2003) was Fletcher’s funny and touching memoir in which she recalls her wartime childhood, and her discovery of both opera and feminism.


Fletcher, Beryl (1938 - ) was a novelist who has achieved considerable success since she began writing fiction at the age of fifty.

As it is for many women writers, writing fiction was a life-long goal for Fletcher which was realised later rather than sooner. Her novels take as their theme the re-writing of established power structures, particularly those of the patriarchy.

Born into what she describes as 'a socialist working class family' in Auckland, Fletcher graduated in 1979 from Waikato University with a Masters Degree in Sociology. Living in New Zealand, Australia, England the USA, she worked in a range of roles, including as a mother, a school dental nurse, and a University lecturer.

Her writing career began with a bang when her first novel The Word Burners (1991) won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book in the Asia / Pacific region. It was selected as one of the top twenty in the 1991 Listener Women's Book Festival.

Shortly after the publication of her second novel, The Iron Mouth (1994), Fletcher was chosen to represent New Zealand at the prestigious International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, USA, where she obtained the title of Honourary Fellow in Writing at the University. A third novel, The Silicon Tongue (1996) was translated into Korean.

Fletcher's novel The Bloodwood Clan (1999) is set inside an Amish-like cult called The Diggers, who live a 19th-Century lifestyle in contemporary rural Australia.

Michelle Atkins wrote in The Australian Bookseller and Publisher: '...Fletcher's writing is engaging - clinical at times, emotional at others. She conveys the gamut of emotions that would be felt by anyone living in an unfamiliar community, let alone one as disturbing as the Diggers.'

Two Masters theses have been written on Fletcher's novels, both at the University of Osnabruck, Germany.

While primarily a novelist, Fletcher published a number of short stories in anthologies including New Australian Writing (1973); New Women's Fiction 3 (1989); Subversive Acts (1991); and Me and Marilyn Monroe (1993). Her writing was also published in Meanjin (2008), and JAAM (2008).

In 1999, as Writer in Residence at Waikato University, Fletcher began work on her first non-fiction book. The House at Karamu (2003) looks at the lives of working-class Pākehā women in 1940s and 1950s New Zealand. A House at Karamu is a funny and touching memoir in which Fletcher recalled her wartime childhood, her discovery of opera, feminism, and more. It tells the story of one life, yet will be familiar to many.

Two of Beryl's novels were also translated into German by Random House, Germany, and another has been translated into Korean. Beryl was the 2006 Writer in Residence at the historic Randell Cottage in Wellington.

Beryl Fletcher died in February 2018.


Waikato Times obituary

Updated July 2022.