Noel Streatfeild Louise Maunsell Field - Essay

Louise Maunsell Field

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

No person at all familiar with English novels is in the least likely to envy the lot of the English governess. The difficulties and hardships of her life have been dwelt upon often, and in many different ways. Nevertheless, [in "Shepherdess of Sheep,"] Noel Streatfeild has found a comparatively fresh angle from which to view the fortunes of her heroine….

Noel Streatfeild has that not too common ability, the power of making ordinary, everyday things interesting. Her people are human beings, her children real flesh and blood little mortals, neither imps nor angels. Mrs. Lane, the mother, is an invalid, and the effect upon her of her illness is well done…. But real as these other people become to us, it is Sarah whom we love best….

An English novel, the book of course deals with conditions and relationships different from those existing in the United States. Charles Lane's attitude toward Bronson the butler, and Mrs. Leggitt, the housekeeper, for instance, as well as theirs toward him, are somewhat unlike those which usually exist in this country, and for that very reason the novel has a value for American readers different from that which it possesses for those belonging to its own people. Its realism, however, is uncompromising; few novelists would have resisted the temptation to close the book with wedding bells, avoiding the truthful ending Miss Streatfeild has given it.

Entirely a home-keeping book, concerned only with the events occurring in a single household and that one of no very particular importance, "Shepherdess of Sheep" is, within its obvious limitations, a fine, honest and interesting novel, blessed with an unusually agreeable if rather too self-sacrificing heroine.

Louise Maunsell Field, "An English Household," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1935 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 17, 1935, p. 7.