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Watson, Jean
Writer's File

Jean Watson

Watson, Jean
In brief
Jean Watson was a fiction writer. Her first novel, Stand in the Rain, was published in 1965, and draws on aspects of her marriage to writer Barry Crump. Spiritual concerns dominate her subsequent books, especially Vedanta philosophy. Three Sea Stories (1994) linked narratives set in southern India, and was greeted with considerable critical acclaim. Jean Watson died in December, 2014.


Watson, Jean (1933–2014), novelist and short-story writer, was born and brought up on a farm near Whangarei, left school at 15 and for many years lived as a freelance writer in Wellington, also completing a Victoria University degree in religious studies. Her first and best-known novel, Stand in the Rain (1965), draws on aspects of her marriage to the writer Barry Crump.

The story, told with deceptive simplicity, portrays the problematic relationship between the narrator, Sarah, a would-be writer, and Abungus, an itinerant bushman, as the couple travel around the North Island, looking for work and a place to live.

A ‘woman’s "on-the-road" novel’ as it has been called, Stand in the Rain has become a minor classic of its period, being reissued in 1985 and again in 1995. Four subsequent novels—The Balloon Watchers (1975), The World is an Orange and the Sun (1978), Flowers for Happyever: A Prose Lyric (1980), and Address to a King (1986)—have been increasingly informed by Watson’s enquiries into the Vedanta philosophy and embody an ongoing search for spiritual truth in a world dominated by materialistic values.

These later novels have on the whole received little serious attention, but the sequence Three Sea Stories (1994), linked narratives set in southern India, was greeted with considerable critical acclaim. With great subtlety and insight, the stories explore cultural difference through the friendship that develops between the narrator Catherine, a 50-year-old New Zealander, and Satya, a young Tamil man.

Watson also published Karunai Illam: The Story of an Orphanage (1992), an autobiographical account of her involvement with the founding of an orphanage in southern India.

September 2023
September 2023