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Saplings (Persephone Classics) Paperback – December 31, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Noel Streatfeild, born 1895, was one of the daughters of the Bishop of Lewes and a great-granddaughter of the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. She was unmarried and led a busy London literary life and had written over eighty books by the time of her death in 1986. Jeremy Holmes is a noted psychiatrist and psychotherapist with an international reputation.
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Product Details

  • Series: Persephone Classics
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Persephone Books (December 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906462089
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906462086
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,379,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Margaret Johnston VINE VOICE on March 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
In this adult novel by the well-known author of Ballet Shoes, Streatfeild follows a happy middle-class British family into World War II and the evacuations of children from London during the bombings. As with her children's novels, her portrayal of how children think and feel is excellent. Her feel for the adults is rather less so, though it's very interesting to see an author much better known as a children's author dealing with more adult subjects, which Streatfeild tackles with her trademark directness. Although her handling of the adult characters is sometimes awkward, the book is very much worth reading for its excellent treatment of the often devastating psychological effects of the war.
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Format: Paperback
Noel Streatfeild is better known for her children's books, particularly the Shoe books, but she also wrote novels for adults, especially one about children for adults, Saplings. In it, the children in question are the Wiltshires, Laurel, Tony, Kim, and Tueday. The novel opens with an idyllic seaside holiday trip that quickly becomes overshadowed by the war, which over the course of the novel will have a strong effect on all of the Wiltshire family, adults and children alike.

It's been a long time since I've read any of the Shoe books, but I do remember, and what is apparent here, is that Streatfeild excels at writing from the perspective of children and adolescents (though of course here the subject matter is a lot darker). The war has a mostly adverse effect on the Wiltshire children, and the author captures brilliantly the uncertainty and danger of both the war and of growing up--which in and of itself can be a bit like the war at times!

The novel was published in 1945, and this story of the dissolution of a family must have been a bit more shocking back then--even though from a more modern perspective, it's quite devastating.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you choose "Saplings" thinking you're going to find a cozy, adult version of "Ballet Shoes", you are doomed to disappointment."Saplings", while it displays Streatfeild's usual remarkable ability to depict her characters from several points of view, including their own, is definitely "R" rated. In investigating the chaos that occurs in a pleasant, upper middle class family during and in the wake of WWII, Streatfeild spares no one, particularly the complacent,the self-righteous, and the disastrously well-intentioned who are too "busy", or too preoccupied with their own affairs, to exercise damage control, especially in the lives of children. Although characters' attitudes and situations may seem at first a little dated, and some plot transitions are abrupt to the point of fuzziness, the driving force of the novel and its message are crystal clear and dateless.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Saplings follows a middle class British family, the Wiltshires, through WW2. Although better known for her children's books, Streatfeild does a wonderful job here subtly drawing the psychological changes experienced by children during the war. The adults in Saplings are less finely drawn than the four Wiltshire siblings, though perhaps that's all you'd see from a child's POV.

The story opens on an picture postcard scene of the family beach vacation, but already there are disturbances in the perfect public faces of the family. As the book progresses and the war begins to intrude, the fissures deepen and spread, helped along by the famed British stoicism and stiff- upper-lippiness. Streatfeild does a great job of showing how such a strength can also isolate and damage a person, particularly young ones.

As Laurel puts it:

"Really! I wish I didn't have to grow up. Do you know, Alice, I'm beginning to wonder if we've not been told things wrong. I mean, we're told that children behave badly and grown ups are always right. I wonder if we shan't find that grown-ups do worse things than children."

Well-intentioned they may have been, but the adults in this novel certainly do mess these children around without understanding them in the least.
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