By Jane Carswell

First published October 2016

Makaro Press, Wellington

Book Coveer

Jane Carswell began her working life at Pegasus Press shortly after its audacious publication of Janet Frame’s novel Owls Do Cry, and years later she went on to publish a book herself, an award-winning memoir about teaching in China called Under the Huang Jiao Tree. The road between one book and the other was a rocky one paved with self-doubt and publishers’ rejections, the experience provoking Jane to write again, this time about the troubled transformation between the private interior world of reading and the noisy exterior world of publication, between the books we read and treasure and the ones we write, which can so often feel like tarnished goods.

She tried to manage this struggle by dividing her time between a busy life as a music teacher in Christchurch while looking after a succession of young Chinese guests, and a quiet withdrawal to a world of meditation and monasteries. But publication continued to elude her, so Jane journeyed to the place where Janet Frame grew up to find the courage she needed to revise her manuscript one last time. Lyrical and literary, Talk of Treasure is a compelling memoir about how to be a writer, and more simply, just how to be.

Makaro Press, Wellington



By Jane Carswell

Transit Lounge Publishing, Melbourne 2009

Winner Whitcoulls/Travcom Travel Book of the Year 2010
Short-listed Ashton Wylie Book Award 2010
Book Coveer

'In mid-life Jane Carswell leaves her seemingly tranquil New Zealand home, her family and friends, to teach English in Chongqing, China. Her journey into the unknown epitomises the ache so many of us feel in our own lives for new challenges and personal understandings. Under the Huang Jiao Tree is a reflective, amusing and absorbing book about living and working in China, and the profound impact the experience has on the author’s search for connection and community. Carswell writes beautifully and entertainingly of China, of its people and her surprises and setbacks, but where her memoir stands alone is in its description of her own search for a spiritual life and practice. On return to her New Zealand life she becomes drawn to the teachings of St Benedict, and all at once the reader realises where the purity of her writing springs from: a deep well of calm, silence and belief.'

Transit Lounge Publishing, Melbourne


Book Reviews

'Jane Carswell’s account of a year teaching in a Chongqing middle school combines an acute eye for detail ...' Read further...

Professor Bill Willmott CNZM
Former Past President
New Zealand China Friendship Society

'This is a wonderful story of mid-life opportunity. Jane Carswell is a courageous woman and a spirited writer. Her book is ...' Read further...

Michael McGirr
Author of 'The Lost Art of Sleep',
'Bypass' and 'Things You Get For Free'

Bookseller+Publisher, October to November reviews

‘A light fresh memoir of a Westerner teaching in China, with insightful observations that lead to a journey of self-discovery. After throwing herself into the chaotic... ’ Read further...

Andrew Wrathall

The Sunday Age (Melbourne), 9 October 2009

‘The two journeys of the title are spatial and spiritual. Carswell was a music teacher in New Zealand, settled into middle age, but restless. She was selected ... ’ Read further...

Lucy Sussex

Launceston Examiner (Tasmania) 9 October 2009

'It’s a long way from New Zealand to China in more ways than one. The author makes this journey to teach English in a middle school in Sichuan Province ... ' Read further...

The Dominion Post (Wellington) 12 November 2009

‘A memoir by a 56-year-old Kiwi music teaching about 10 months of teaching English in China would not voluntarily make it into the teetering tower... ’ Read further...

Joanna Rix

bookshop page of New Zealand Community for ChristianMeditation website

Ross Miller

The Age (Melbourne) 26 December 2009

'The Westerner's spiritual journey to the East has become such a cliche that any author writing on the subject must tread carefully. Jane Carswell treads not only carefully, but thoughtfully and originally...’Read further...

Lorien Kaye

The Otago Daily Times (Dunedin) 12 December 2009

'Over the past few weeks, China seems to have been to the fore whenever I pick up a paper, magazine or pick up on a conversation. The accounts of life there differed wildly. Among them were the New Zealand tourist...'Read further...

Pat Thwaites

Australian Community for Christian Meditation Newsletter, March 2010

‘I am always delighted when I receive invitations to attend exhibitions or such like, to view the creative works ...’Read further...

Ruth Fowler

Born in England, Jane Carswell received all her schooling at St Margaret’s College in Christchurch, New Zealand where she now lives. Other homes were in Dunedin, Perugia (where she studied Italian) Waikari, Leeston and Chongqing (where she taught English). After piano lessons with Jessie Cook until she was 25, Jane began a lifelong career in teaching music. She has also worked with publishers, booksellers, lawyers, accountants, historians, real estate agents and artists, and enjoys close involvement with the New Zealand China Friendship Society, New Zealand Community for Christian Meditation, 12-step programmes and the NZ Society of Authors. She is a Benedictine oblate, is married, and has a son and daughter, a 1912 straight-strung Bechstein piano, a split-cane fly rod, and small grandchildren who are teaching her ballet. She is a regular visitor to Australia.