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Story time

Saplings - Noel Streatfeild

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I don't know why but I never expect to find books published by Persephone in the library so when I saw Saplings by Noel Streatfeild I sort of made an undignified grab for it. The author is best known for Ballet Shoes of course but has apparently written a lot of books for adults of which I, as usual, was completely unaware. I posted about it yesterday so won't bore people too much with how hooked I was, suffice to say it's a page turner.


The aim of the story is to illustrate the effect war has on the family - in this case World War Two. The Book Thief had a similar theme but dealt with it differently. The message was the same though - it messes people up. These days we know that and I suppose they did back then, what they weren't so much aware of was the need for children to have a secure family base. (Thus the evacuation dilemma of course - was it better to take children away from the cities and their parents so that they were physically safe, or worse because of the psychological damage it caused?) Doesn't always matter that the base might be a bit shaky and the adults far from perfect, they just need to feel secure. Laurel, Tony, Kim and Tuesday are the children here. With their parents they make the perfect middle-class family before the start of WW2. The father, Alex, is their rock, the mother, Lena, less so - she's superficial, a wife rather than a mother and utterly dependent on the love of her husband. What happens to the children when Alex is killed in an air raid forms the entire basis of the book; it's the central tragedy if you like. A catalogue of disasters, mistakes, selfish acts, you name it, follows. I wanted to weep for the kids and actually did in a couple of places. Some of the adults were only doing their best under difficult circumstances, others - well...

If I have a complaint it's the ending. I found it abrupt and unsatisfactory. I suppose I needed more information but that's just me, others might feel that all that was needed was there. I'm so glad to have read this. On many levels I feel more informed and aware not only of the effect of war on children but also about children themselves. We've all been kids of course, but you forget and this reminded me of just how awful it can be sometimes. Excellent read.

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