Noel Streatfeild Marjory Stoneman Douglas - Essay

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Caldwell children in "Mothering Sunday"] had neglected their mother and would have gone on neglecting her if someone had not reported that she was behaving strangely. The discovery of her secret, its revelation through the chapters in which each member of the family is presented separately, has the suspense, almost, of a superior English detective story. Its working out resolves, almost too patly, all the other individual problems. But through the detailed method the people grow real. Their characters are soundly and clearly built. You believe in them. The story becomes the story of a real family.

It is curious that there is a quality here which suggests that rare and beautiful book of Virginia Woolf, "The Waves." If only the two could have been combined so that this one might have the spare, haunting beauty of Virginia Woolf's! And if "The Waves" could have something of the clarity and integrity of this book's character drawing, even a suggestion of its very real story, what a fine novel they would have made! To bracket the two in this sort of paragraph is at least a tribute to the fact that, in spite of its apparent faults—its wordiness, its long, monotonous paragraphs, its vocabulary compounded half of English and half of American—"Mothering Sunday" has an impact, a value, which is worth remembering.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, "Fiction Notes: 'Mothering Sunday'," in The Saturday Review of Literature (copyright © 1950, copyright renewed © 1978, by Saturday Review; all rights reserved, reprinted by permission), Vol. XXXIII, No. 10, March 11, 1950, p. 34.