Janet Frame's former Palmerston North house set to hit the market

A New Zealand literary landmark is going on sale on Monday.

The house where internationally renowned Kiwi author Janet Frame lived in Palmerston North will hit the market with a starting price of less than $500,000.

Frame, who died in January 2004, was best known for An Angel at My Table, a film based on her trilogy of autobiographies. But she also won countless awards for her novels, poetry and short stories.

The Palmerston North house, in Dahila St, is believed to be where she wrote a number of short stories and poems and worked with Michael King on her biography during the 1990s.

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Owners Hamish and Natalie Gibbons, who are selling due to Hamish's work sending him to Wellington, said it was sad to be letting the house go as it was the couple's first home.

Living in the same place that one of New Zealand's most treasured writers once owned and worked out of had been an extra special touch for them.

Born in the United States, Natalie admitted she had not heard of Frame before moving in.

"We were interested in the house, purely for the house," she said. But its back story fascinated her.

They bought the house and then Natalie got to work learning about Frame.

"I did a bit of research and then went down to Bruce Mckenzie Books and bought all her books."

Those books now hold pride of place on the bookshelf in their living room and will one day be compulsory reading for their two children. Natalie's interest in Frame did not stop there.

She got on the phone to Frame's niece and literary executor Pamela Gordon to find out more about Frame's time at the house.

"She had a work station in nearly every room. Each work station was designated for a separate piece of work she was working on at the time," Natalie said.

"She had a designated study that no one was allowed in and she had screens so that when someone came over she would hide her work because she was very private about what she was working on."

One of Frame's former neighbours, Vanessa Barnes, recalls living down the street from Frame as a child.

She specifically remembers dropping a note into Frame's letterbox as an eight-year-old. The next morning there was a knock on the door.

"My sister was like, 'There's some old lady at the front door', and my mum went and answered, and she was like, 'Oh my god, it's Janet Frame'."

Frame gave Barnes a blank diary with the message: "To Vanessa. If you want to be a writer, you must write and see what happens".

The Dahila St property will be listed by Property Brokers real estate agent Raewyn Easton on Monday.

 - Sunday Star Times