Sunset at the Estuary
Edited by D. Alexander and J. Rosier-Jones
This is a collection of writing that serves many purposes. First and foremost it is a tribute to the late Dianne Beatson, but also Peter Beatson, together generous supporters of the arts over many years. Fittingly, it is a book that presents and celebrates artists and arts – mainly writing, but also photography and fine arts.
The estuary of the title is that at Foxton Beach, Manawatu, overlooking which stands a house owned by the couple, that has for many years been a place where writers can come and write. For the past 14 years it has hosted the winner of the NZSA Beatson Fellowship, and also provided a venue for other writers and events.
As well as being a tribute to Dianne and Peter Beatson, the volume also serves as a history of the Fellowship to date, and it presents some writings that might not be available in print otherwise.
To this reader, the prose pieces are more satisfying. Authors Chris Else and Mandy Hager, contribute extracts from novels they worked on while in residence. Sue McCauley gives a sad tale of both a novel and a lamb that didn’t make it through her stay. More like these would be welcome and strengthen the collection.
There’s an emphasis on poetry, and the verses contain many good lines, though overall they don’t prove so satisfying in their entirety. The subjects are heavy on the location – the estuary and the birdlife in the area. There’s nothing wrong with that when taken individually, but together they so dominate the selection this reader felt more variety would be welcome.
Other writers take the opportunity to simply express their memories of the place and their hosts – particularly those of Dianne, whose graciousness is attested to by them all.
Placed after the written contributions, Peter Beatson’s 23 pages of explanation of the art pieces collected by the couple, is interesting and adds a further dimension to the overall appreciation of the arts in the area.
The emotions portrayed within the memories – respect, gratitude, love, loss – make this a collection that is full of heart. And charity, as the proceeds of sales goes to the Cancer Society.
In view of this, should a reviewer point to areas where the result could have been better? This is a volume of writing by writers, about writers, produced by writers. So, yes. In that case, the whole would be improved by more attention to publishing details. As it is, the book has a curious amateurish look. The formatting and the layout are erratic, and more skill applied here would improve the whole. The tributes are placed in alphabetical order of authors. Though it is an easy way of deciding on the ordering, it would be more effective if thought were put into placing them so they complemented each other more.
But those quibbles may not affect how such a collection will be judged by most readers. Thirty-two authors and five photographers have contributed their skills to produce this work, and Sunset at the Estuary is a fitting tribute to someone so obviously loved and respected.