Noel Streatfeild Nora E. Taylor - Essay

Nora E. Taylor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["A Vicarage Family"] is an autobiography written as a story. Mostly it comes off very well, though every once in a while the impersonality becomes too self-conscious as, for instance, in the recurrence of the expressions "the children's father," or "the children's mother," where "father" and "mother" would have been natural.

But this is a small quibble about a story that evokes matter-of-factly the hardships and rewards of English clerical life in the early years of this century. Miss Streatfeild sees herself, the Vicky of her book, with the remarkably clear vision not only of hindsight but also of a warm and understanding maturity.

Perhaps she tends to excuse the inexcusable a bit too much. Vicky's "difficult" label, it quickly becomes clear, was due to adult misunderstanding, and to what seems to be deliberate obtuseness of parents and teachers to her needs….

Aside from the record of hurdles cleared by Vicky, the story is a brilliant evocation of the period just prior to World War I, when Britain still lingered in the glow of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, class distinctions were a stable part of existence, and the seasons in nursery and parlor came and went in tranquillity.

In these mellow chapters Miss Streatfeild has carved a monument to her young days that is as unsentimental as a frontpage news account—and as warming as a woodfire on a winter's night.

Nora E. Taylor, "Vicar's Vicky," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; © 1963 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), November 14, 1963, p. 11.