Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Kindergarten, first published in Great Britain in 1979 and later revised for the American edition in 1980, has elicited mixed reactions from critics, who agree that it is a compelling first novel. Winner of the Hawthornden Prize from Great Britain’s Society of Authors in 1980, the novel has been hailed for the originality and intricacy of its montage structure, for its unusual filmic quality, for its intensely riveting story celebrating the strength of family ties, and for its reverberant and intriguing network of images and allusions. Commentators are unified in their praise for Rushforth’s narrative skill and for his thoughtful treatment of the perils of childhood, a theme so easily over-sentimentalized by a less careful and perceptive writer. Most agree that the book requires, indeed demands, rereading for a thorough appreciation of its complexity and the richness of its imagery.

Oddly, it is Kindergarten’s very complexity that has been most strongly criticized, even by reviewers who find the novel extraordinarily well written. There is some truth to the accusations that Rushforth is almost heavy-handed with his use of related but extraneous material, thematically significant though that material might be. At times, the story of Corrie and his brothers is buried beneath a daunting multiplicity of allusions to fairy tales, paintings, books, songs, poems, past experiences, and films and then extricated, pages later, creating an...

(The entire section is 456 words.)