William Mayne Wallace Hildick - Essay

Wallace Hildick

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The descriptive matter [in The Battlefield] is seemingly casual, compressed, beautifully telling. The dialogue is wayward without being rambling, and fascinating in the way the half-formed thoughts jut up like stepping stones. But I couldn't help thinking that too much of this was muted bravura, put on for the benefit of older faithful admirers, especially in the first 30 pages. I'm not one who believes that children's stories should be pared down to their narrative essentials, with everything being used to push forward the plot. Children live in the present. To them any interesting incident is the plot. Even so, I feel that nothing need be lost and the whole may be enhanced by establishing the theme of a story as firmly and vividly and early as possible. The blurb announces a 'tale of mystery and strange happenings' in Mayne's native Yorkshire, but the author should have done this job himself, taking care in those first two chapters to hint more strongly at the mystery and strangeness, as well as setting the wintry moorland scene and introducing the delightfully fitful little girls who are the heroines. (pp. 643-44)

Wallace Hildick, in The Listener (© British Broadcasting Corp. 1967; reprinted by permission of Wallace Hildick), November 16, 1967.