11 Dec 2023

Author and playwright Renée dies, aged 94

9:57 pm on 11 December 2023

Renée. Photo: Claudia Latisnere

New Zealand author and playwright Renée has died, aged 94.

The self-described "lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals" died peacefully at home on Monday evening, her publisher, agent and son said in a statement released that night.

Born Renée Gertrude Taylor in 1929, she only started writing seriously after she turned 50 - using her first name as "the only one she felt was hers".

Her best-known work, according to the statement, was Wednesday To Come, "a play about the women in a working-class family coping in the Depression… famously set around a coffin and includes scones being baked on stage", first performed in 1984.

She continued to write into her 90s, publishing her first crime novel just a few years ago, followed by a sequel - both shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Awards. She was interviewed by RNZ's Kim Hill in 2017, the then 88-year-old considering herself very lucky to still have most of her marbles.

Renée also continued to teach and mentor other writers in her final years, and presented literary awards.

"Books - plays, poetry, short stories, novels, non-fiction - they feed us, they heal the broken places, they teach us new things, lead us back to old," she said in a 2022 lecture.

She was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006, for services to literature and drama.

Renée lived in Ōtaki until October 2023, when she moved into a Wellington retirement home. She is survived by two of her three sons.

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