Meet the au­thor

A Bach for All Sea­sons: A Love Story (Ishtar Books, $38) is Auck­land artist and writer Juliet Bat­ten’s heart­felt mem­oir, in which breath­ing new life into a tra­di­tional Kiwi bach be­comes a metaphor for heal­ing long­stand­ing emo­tional wounds.

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In nut­shell, how would you de­scribe your mem­oir?

It’s a story about a bach and a re­la­tion­ship in­ter­twined with be­trayal and for­give­ness.

Tell me about buy­ing your bach back in the 60s...

I had been mar­ried to my hus­band Fran­cis for about a year. We were in our early 20s – young and ad­ven­tur­ous – and there was no way we could af­ford a house. We were both liv­ing un­con­ven­tional, cre­ative lives. We were never go­ing to earn a lot of money – but we could af­ford a bach. We had a dream to buy a place in the wilder­ness; a place to nest. When we found this bach at Te Henga [on Auck­land’s west coast], we fell in love with it and bought it for $1000. It was just a lit­tle fi­bro­lite box on the hill­side, but in the most spec­tac­u­lar land­scape.

Your mar­riage ended in your late 20s, just 11 months af­ter you gave birth to your son – when Fran­cis took up with an­other woman.

Can you de­scribe how that felt?

The way it ended, it felt like my life was in ru­ins and I could never re­build it. I used to al­ways sing to our baby son. I used to sing all the time. But I stopped singing for two years. I couldn’t lis­ten to mu­sic or go to a mu­sic con­cert, which was some­thing I loved. I was in ex­treme pain.

You got the bach at Te Henga as your part of the di­vorce set­tle­ment?

Yes, I got the bach and he pur­chased a brand new Re­nault. They were worth about the same! The bach was such a com­fort to me and a bit of a chal­lenge, be­cause at that stage I hadn’t learned to drive a car, so at first I couldn’t even get out there.

You en­joyed your bach for decades, but a few years ago it was in such a sorry state of dis­re­pair that you thought you would have to sell. In your book, you de­scribe the al­most al­chem­i­cal process of bring­ing it back to life, while at the same time fi­nally re­solv­ing your re­la­tion­ship with Fran­cis. What did you find more dif­fi­cult, res­cu­ing a de­cay­ing build­ing or rec­on­cil­ing a great be­trayal?

They’re both very, very tough. I think that rec­on­cil­ing a be­trayal is a heal­ing process that goes on in­side for a long, long time. The dif­fi­culty about res­cu­ing the bach was, ‘Where the hell do I start?’ I had to do a cer­tain amount of in­ter­nal heal­ing first be­fore I could have the power to take on the bach.

Do you think the rumpty Kiwi bach is an en­dan­gered species?

Some­times – when I see that peo­ple think they’ve got to recre­ate a city house on the coast. I’ve dis­cov­ered many peo­ple don’t know what a long drop is any­more, or what a grav­ity-feed shower is.

What was the last truly great book you read?

David Abram’s Be­com­ing An­i­mal: An Earthly Cos­mol­ogy. It’s all about in­hab­it­ing the sen­su­ous world of plants and an­i­mals and land­scapes and sky. I re­ally loved it be­cause it opened me up even more to the world of na­ture.

Tell me some­thing sur­pris­ing about your­self.

I re­ally like darn­ing socks.

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