Noel Streatfeild Margaret Cheney Dawson - Essay

Margaret Cheney Dawson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

It might seem on the face of it that a book describing faithfully and affectionately the life of a large English household, and especially the days and ways of its four children and their devoted governess, would have an appeal for all domestically minded persons. But ["Shepherdess of Sheep"] cannot be recommended quite so generally. To enjoy it without a number of reservations one should be not only a woman (men, definitely, lay off) but a very, very womanly woman; should, moreover, be a woman who admires self-sacrifice, no matter how futile, for its own sake; and should further be one who thinks that modern ideas of therapy for abnormal children are all tosh—that, for instance, the treatment for a budding pyromaniac should have nothing to do with doctors and sanitaria but should be confined to an increasing dosage of love, love, love.

Any one unable to subscribe to these beliefs is likely to find the story of Sarah Bertha Onion and her devotion to the Lane family a bit hard to swallow, rather like a large meal (for this is not a short book) made up entirely of vanilla junket. However, one woman's junket may well be another's raspberries and cream.

Margaret Cheney Dawson, "Some Recent Leading Fiction: 'Shepherdess of Sheep'," in New York Herald Tribune Books (© I.H.T. Corporation; copyright renewed © 1963; reprinted by permission), March 10, 1935, p. 14.