These Two Hands: new edition by Renée


Due to demand following the death of our beloved author Renée, on 11 December 2023, aged 94, we are out of print of her memoir. You can find which booksellers have copies at If you have no luck there, try your favourite secondhand bookshops and local libraries. And email so we can let you know when it will be available again.

ISBN 978-0-9951110-4-2
September 2020
B format with flaps, 434pp, $40

Cover image by Doug Lilly
Back cover image by Penny Howard


Renée is a rangatira of Aotearoa literature. She has been awarded an ONZM for services to literature and drama, the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement, the Playmarket Award for a significant artistic contribution to theatre, and Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka for a lifetime contribution to toi Māori.

Born in 1929, with a whakapapa that is Ngāti Kahungunu, Scots and Cape Verdean, Renée left school at twelve. At fifty she started writing plays, novels and poetry, with Wednesday To Come her most loved work. In 2017 she published her memoir, These Two Hands, and in 2019, her first crime novel The Wild Card, a Ngaio Marsh Awards finalist.

Renée has described herself as ‘a lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals’ and her writing puts women centre stage. She lives in Ōtaki, writing and teaching.

These Two Hands is her story told in patches, like a quilt, one for every year of the life she has lived so far. The 2017 edition had eighty-eight patches. The 2020 edition has ninety-one.

The new chapters cover: the onset of macular degeneration, the publication of The Wild Card, and living through the Covid-19 pandemic. This time there is also an index to help readers and researchers follow her extraordinary life.

Iris: I remember when Dad died we stayed up all night. About one in the morning Mum made scones. Crazy the things you do —

Ted: Like singing round a coffin?

Iris: Hang around, Ted – that’s just the start.

From Wednesday To Come

Extract from These Two Hands

I was born in Napier on Friday, 19 July 1929, and the world went into a deep depression. Then Napier fell down. Two years after that my father shot himself. He was from Gore. Drama didn’t just follow me, it came out and met me with a big tah-dah.

There were four of us and we had four chairs. Each chair was wooden but each was different. Unless we were trying to pick a fight, no kid ever sat on another kid’s chair. And no kid ever dared to sit on Rose’s chair. Our mother’s name was Rose. One way to make her angry was to call her Rosie. She said it made her sound like a barmaid. Once, Cliff banged his empty glass on the table and said, ‘Who shot the barman, Rosie?’ and had to wait a long time before his glass was filled. He never did it again. Rose’s ability to hold a grudge was like an ember dropped in a green forest. It smouldered steadily until one day – whoosh – the whole forest went up in flames and everyone in the vicinity ran like hell.


“A patchwork – funny, sad, wry – stitching together a quilt of many colours.”
Patricia Grace

This is a treat.”
Roger Hall

“Renée is witty, irreverent, intelligent, moving and utterly inspiring. I defy you to read her memoir and not want to claim your own life with words, passion and delight. These Two Hands is a tonic and a treasure, like its author.”
Sue Wootton, Corpus