(Ann) Philippa Pearce Margery Fisher - Essay

Margery Fisher

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Hattons of Stanford Hall [in The Children of the House] belong to the privileged classes but life for the children is one of scant food and strict discipline…. [The] Hattons led a strangely tribal life, ceremonial, ingenious and tolerably happy.

This life is pieced together in one episode after another. A lucid prose style in which every word counts makes these episodes unsensationally vivid….

Lucky the child who acquires a sense of period from reading such books as this, books which do not set out to teach but, by the wealth and choice of detail and by the behaviour of their characters, do pass on the flavour of a particular world…. Brian Fairfax-Lucy writes of a world he knows from inside, Philippa Pearce with intuition about just such periods and estates.

The three interlocking yet separate groups at Stanford are kept precisely clear. We perceive the children's innocently sharp view of servants and parents; the servants are seen on both sides of the baize door; the worried contrivances and remote affection of the parents are demonstrated as they talk to each other, to the servants, to the children. We see how the four children, while accepting rules and influences, remain triumphantly themselves.

This has been a most successful collaboration. There is no visible join or jarring of mood in the book. Humour and grace decorate a confident picture of inheritance and environment.

Margery Fisher, "Special Review: 'The Children of the House'," in her Growing Point, Vol. 7, No. 1, May, 1968, p. 1121.