- Publisher: Random House
- Available in: Paperback
- ISBN: 1869416147
- Published: July 2, 2004
Brown is relentlessly honest and gives us the story warts and all.
Review by Kristi Gray, The Press
Brown has an impressive body of work available already and I strongly suggest that we should take an extra long look at this one.
Review by Trevor Reeves, Southern Ocean Review
There was a younger man on my first flight who stared at me straight in the eyes and smiled. It seemed to me an acknowledgement that he was a man and I was a woman; the kind of thing that doesn’t happen in New Zealand, at least not to me any more. If indeed it ever did happen quite so openly. So this time, even if the only man who tried to pinch my bum looked a bit of a bum himself, I had been stared at frankly by a handsome young man. A frisson of joy. It is a frisson that never fades for women: I can remember setting off for a reading from a Paris hotel, glittering with nerves, and being silently appraised by an older man in reception: You’ve got yourself up well, madame. The delightful thing about Diane Brown, author of the travel memoir, Liars & Lovers, is that she doesn’t change too much. Whether it is her first OE (12/1/75): by sea on the Marconi; England, Spain, Italy, Greece or her second more sedate travel, 25 years later with her partner, Philip Temple, or the reflective voice that is lightly overlaid, the essence of Diane remains constant. There are themes of too little money (but an indefatigable shopper and optimist); too many lovers (some evaded); a few pretend husbands (a Mills & Boon touch when things looked dangerous); more hormones than sightseeing. She accompanies her friend Rae, through not so much Greece as a passage of love; she learns without realising she is learning: “You can always tell by the quality of silence that follows a declaration as to whether the feeling is reciprocated.” Getting feelings reciprocated is as important as navigating.
Towards the end of her first travels, the desire to be a writer manifests itself. She sets off to bike (she thinks she should remember how) to her Arvon Foundation Poetry Course, wearing multi-coloured striped socks and green velvet bell-bottoms, but falls in love at her first rest stop. She remembers James, who may have been a conman or something in arms for Iran – “our embrace was so strong my glasses cracked on James’s chest” – better than Gavin Ewart or Douglas Dunn. Sometimes she thinks chocolate may be better. “I bought a slab of chocolate from a man with a cart. The chocolate was thin, slightly bitter, and in the centre was the most delicious nougat I’d ever eaten. I fell instantly in love. Some might think that an exaggeration, but the memory of that chocolate remains, whereas many lovers are forgotten.”
Later, with Philip, she will record daily events and the truth that writers only find what they know by writing. The chapter titles are worthy of Wallace Stevens: “I miss out on the cliff divers but bag an Israeli”; “Rome and encounters with flashers, hospitals and Persian acrobats”; “Totleigh Barton to become a poet”. It is the personality in travel writing that we respond to: chaos is an added extra. “Alexis paid for our meal and I was so grateful I thrust my tongue down his throat. He looked a little shocked.” A broken muffler (in true NZ style) is tied on with wire. “This is the nature of travel,” Brown concludes. “Intense moments of contact, unmediated on either side by the people who normally surround you, then you move on again.” And did the 12/1/75 belief come true – “despite all evidence to the contrary, I still harboured the belief I was destined for a happy love life”? The answer lies between the lines in these delightful travels.
Review by Elizabeth Smither, NZ Listener, July 31 2004
Falling from the arms of one man into the next, Diane Brown is not the tanned goddess of an airport romance. Rather, she is a shy, unhappy, slightly overweight 23-year-old, trying to find herself by travelling the world, in the time-honoured fashion of young New Zealanders.
Brown captures all the bittersweet angst of the young adult, but balances this youthful melodrama with the reflection of a mature adult. Liars & Lovers is the story of the author’s OE, written almost 30 years after the event. Seeking solace from her loneliness through sexual encounters, the young traveller bounces from one relationship to another, collecting scars, some exquisite memories, and possibly a little wisdom. Thirty years later, she uses these experiences to explore the process by which the egotistical child becomes an adult who is, “at last able to co-exist with another adult.” “To be independent and yet to depend.” “To trust and be trusted”.
Much of the memoir is based on the diary she kept during those travels. References to the diary provide a starting point from which Brown explores the concepts of memory, records and the writing process. Frustrated at times by her own lack of description, she reflects on the difference between what seems important at the time, and what we desperately want to remember later.
An enjoyable and evocative account of the journey, which is remarkably similar to the one scores of young New Zealanders still undertake, Liars & Lovers is also a thoughtful reflection on remembering and inventing personal identity.
Review by * Susana Carryer , NZ Herald, July 3 2004
* Susana Carryer is an Auckland theologian.