Noel Streatfeild The New York Times Book Review - Essay

The New York Times Book Review

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Not the least interesting incidents and episodes [in "Tops and Bottoms"] are those dealing with [Beaty's gradual transformation from slum girl to proper lady under the guidance of the spinster Felicity]….

The relations of the gentle Felicity with her strong-minded friend Agatha, her rival in the art of flower gardening, are described with delicious subtlety of humor…. Miss Streatfeild's gift of delicate satire is here displayed at its best.

Felicity's younger sister Mabel had married a social inferior, a hard-working professional juggler known in music-hall circles as Tiny Timpson. When Mabel died in an accident, Felicity conceived it her duty to go on tour with Tiny as unpaid governess for his children. Sadly she arranged to rent her beloved cottage, Little Thole, and, taking Beaty along, joined the bereaved family. How Beaty tried to adapt herself to vaudeville life while yearning for the lost joys of Little Thole is described with all fairness to contrasting ideals….

As in "The Whicharts," published about two years ago, Miss Streatfeild provides a vivid picture of back-stage life. In this part of the tale Tiny's mother, Marie, figures as the dominant personality…. Despite Marie's gushing emotionalism and the outrageous way in which she spoils her youngest grandchild, Doris (an angelically beautiful but insufferable little brat), the author deftly conveys the fact of her fundamental common sense and acuteness…. As a characterization Marie is unquestionably the more brilliant, but the delineation of Beaty as revealed in the account of her spiritual frustration, and her tragic romance with Bobby Timpson provided the chief emotional interest….

That Miss Streatfeild should have succeeded so well in depicting three such diverse types of English life as slum, stage and country gentry is not the least notable of her achievements in the writing of this tender little story.

"London Music Halls," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1933 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), September 17, 1933, p. 15.