Lynne Reid Banks Millicent Bell - Essay

Millicent Bell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

A middle-aged neurotic who is drinking herself blind in squalid solitude begins a journal (as a kind of therapy, of course). Wanna read it? No? I thought not. It's hard to get past the opening pages of the dismal confessions of Lynne Reid Banks's heroine [of "Children at the Gate"] without concluding that her Gerda is that poor girl of everyone's acquaintance who has lost her child and husband, and now just wants to die, and goes out into the street without combing her hair.

But wait—there is something else. Our woeful lady is far from the scene of her disasters (in her case, Toronto). We find her in a fly-filled room in Acco, a small coastal town in modern Israel. Her only friend—yes, after all, she does have one—is an Arab house-painter who visits her, nurses her and offers unsurprising advice: "You must take responsibility for some other life." Unable to adopt a child legally, she accepts Kofi's gift of two unwanted Arab children he has picked up somewhere, and undertakes to support them in an agricultural kibbutz.

By now, we realize that Miss Banks has launched an interplay of some interest. There is Gerda, painfully learning to love again. There are the children, desperate waifs whose difficult recovery shows that perversity and hostility can take up residence in human hearts (even young ones) much more readily than love. And there are the kibbutzniks, eminently normal and dull, with no stronger...

(The entire section is 502 words.)