The story’s interest lies in the way the narrator, John ‘Johnny Boy’ Little, gives us the petty details of his simple life, and of Catholic life, in the ‘fifties, month-by-month, and how he – curious and sceptical – saw and related to his family, school, church, shops and the people of the Auckland neighbourhood he called home.
That everyone and everything in his little life during this one year was so undistinguished, ordinary and typical of the times – except perhaps in its climax – means that the modern reader receives a simple, unvarnished, plain-language taste of life in the suburban New Zealand of the past. As a result My Marian Year appeals equally to the old and young: the old recognize themselves in the story, with poignant reminders of their own childhood, while the young are fascinated if not astonished by how much life in New Zealand has changed in just fifty-odd years.
My Marian Year takes its title from the fact that Pope Pius XII declared that 1954 was to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called a ‘Marian Year’. Catholics all over the world were then required to direct their devotions to the Virgin Mary throughout the year, in particular by daily praying the rosary.