Noel Streatfeild Ruth Hill Viguers - Essay

Ruth Hill Viguers

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The common denominator of [Streatfeild's books for children] and the quality that lifts even the lesser ones out of the realm of the ordinary is the sense of family. And it is not merely a sense of family unity, though that is strong, but of people drawing strengths and weaknesses and individuality from different members of the family, from certain positions in the family, and from traditions, customs, activities, joys, and sorrows of the family group. [A Vicarage Family] is like an original painting: it has richness that even the most delightful copy cannot give. The book's substance is the fountainhead of all Miss Streatfeild's children's books.

Told as a story, this is nevertheless autobiography, as unself-conscious as any I have ever read. The Strangeways are the Streatfeilds, and Victoria, the middle girl, is Noel…. There is a definite plot; for Victoria, certain that she is the homely daughter and the one least cared for, in anger against the discrimination she finds because she so determinedly looks for it, creates a problem that her saintly father, her very human mother, and her completely normal siblings either cannot understand or refuse to take seriously. Every member of the family, every servant and friend is real. Here is a glimpse of England and of a rural vicar's family during four years just before the First World War, and here are new friends that cannot be contained merely between the covers of a book. For those adults who enjoy autobiography …; for older girls who like stories of families and of girls growing up; and for all who loved Dancing Shoes, Theater Shoes, and the rest…. (pp. 611-12)

Ruth Hill Viguers, "Christmas Booklist: 'A Vicarage Family'," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1963, by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. XXXIX, No. 6, December, 1963, pp. 611-12.