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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Children at war, 12 Nov 2001
By 
Lynette Baines (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Saplings (Paperback)
The Wiltshires are an ordinary middle class family just before the beginning of WWII. Mum, Dad and four children are portrayed in the opening chapter as almost too cloyingly contented on their annual seaside holiday. This first chapter does not prepare the reader for the course the book will take. As the war begins and the family has to adapt, the children's secure world begins to fragment. Streatfeild's insights into the psychology of children are excellent. She makes each of these children, Laurel, Tony, Kim and Tuesday an individual who reacts to the gradual breakup of their family in their own totally realistic way. The adults in the story, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers and servants, fail the children in fundamental ways, with few exceptions. This is a moving story of the disintegration of a family in wartime. The experience of evacuees, and the consequences of children being seperated from their parents and siblings is beautifully done. Above all, the novel is well-written, full of interest and packed with characters the reader grows to care about. I loved Ballet shoes as a child, and Saplings has the same quality of observing and understanding children.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The moving story of the destruction of a happy family, 7 May 2007
By 
A. Hope "bookcrossing ali" (Birmingham, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saplings (Paperback)
It is true that this is not a happy book in many ways, the slow destruction of a happy family (although at the beginning you sense that happiness to be fragile) is not a cheerful topic. This however is a beautifully written novel, very readable, with fabulously drawn characters, realistic, and often flawed. Noel Streatfeild wrote about children so well, their voices are so authentic and the reader is able to identify with them, and their little agonies - and really feels the larger tragedies that enter their lives, as we can all remember what it was to be a child, not fully understanding the world around us. The reality of WW2 - and its effects upon family life is what is at the heart of this novel, and these effects are most keenly felt by the children of the family, but the adult characters are just as well portrayed and explored. I loved every page of this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, perceptive, but very sad, 23 May 2011
By 
Miss Amanda Jones (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saplings (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
This book is, as the others have said, about a family torn apart by the Second World War. The four children, Lauren, Tony, Kim and Tuesday, are thrust from pillar to post by evacuation and the death of their father.

What is fantastic about this book is that while the many adults pretty much universally fail the children, they aren't "baddies", rather they are good people trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. With the exception of Aunt Lindsay, you can really see why the adults behave as they do, but at the same time, also see why the children suffer so much. Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handle with care, 7 Oct 2011
This review is from: Saplings (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
This is a disturbing and thought-provoking book,which shows with great sensitivity how fragile our sense of belonging and security can be. Both adults and children have their lives uprooted by the onset and consequences of the Second World War and the way that this affects their growth and relationships is set out with compassion and insight. None of the characters are judged by Streatfeild even when they are thoughtless, careless and selfish; her awareness of children's emotions and her ability to convey the great pains and hurts which can go unnoticed in life are outstanding. This is not a comfortable read, but it is a great one. Please read it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The demise of the family unit., 25 Feb 2011
This review is from: Saplings (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
Like many of us, I grew up secretly wishing I could be a member of the Fossil family from Noel Streatfeild's children's book 'Ballet Shoes'. This book was cherished throughout my childhood and is still loved today. Over the years I began to collect her other children's book, but I was quite surprised to discover last year that Noel Streatfeild had also written books for adults. So it was an easy decision for me to pick Saplings as my Persephone choice.

Saplings is a much darker tale then any of the children's books written by Streatfeild, but ultimately it deals with children. The story revolves around a happy, middle class family who are shown in the opening pages to be enjoying a family holiday at the seaside. The children are carefree and enjoying the holiday in the hope that it will last forever. The war is still just a rumour and they have no need to fear the future. However their father Alex, who is very much a family man, is more aware than others that their lives will change, so he goes to great lengths to make their holiday together one to remember.

As the story progresses, World War 2 commences and you are given a clear insight into how the war alters the family. Each and every person, from the young to the old are ravaged by the effects of war and you cannot help but want to comfort them all.

The main theme of this book is the effects of the war on the children. The last line of the book could not be more ironic, as the house help Mrs Oliver announces 'We got a lot to be thankful for in this country. Our kids 'aven't suffered 'o-ever else 'as' This could not be further from the truth, as you witness the downward spiral of devastation on each child within the book as war rips apart the close knit family.

I felt such grief for the children in the story. Each turning in a different direction, which took them further away from their mother. Those maternal ties, stretching and snapping the further they grew apart. Laurel, once a loving thoughtful child, now disagreeable and bringing shame on the family by being expelled from school. Tony, an inquisitive child, who turns into a 'surly, unco-operative boy.' Tuesday, such a delicate child to begin with, left in a world of imaginary friends, unable to communicate with the real people in her life. Kim was the only one I found to not have really changed. He had always been self centred, the war just increased this behaviour.

Their mother Lena, was not a loving mother to begin with; after the death of her husband, she lost her ability to cope and the children were separated and sent to live with different relatives. I couldn't feel angry by her behaviour, her abandoning the children, as I could not imagine how her devastating circumstances would affect me if I had experienced the same. You imagine that you would be strong for children, but you really could not determine your actions.

You witness all the adults within the family trying to help. Uncles and aunts and close household staff, trying to do what is best, but all failing the children dismally, unable to grasp the effects the separations and change of routines would have on them. They are too wrapped up with their own lives dramatically changing to see how the children are coping.

I felt that this book should be included in secondary school curriculums. The children of today would realise how lucky they are, if they could see the devastation that World War 2 caused to children just like themselves. Children being sent to live with complete strangers, never knowing whether they would see their parents again. Waiting for a telegram to tell them that their parents have died.

This book is so beautifully written; you believe so highly in the children, your motherly instincts kick in and you want to take them home and wrap them in cotton wool to preserve them from any more damage.

I adored this book. I adored the children in it, (even though they broke my heart) and I know it has only increased my love for Noel Streatfeild's books. This woman not only wrote for children, but she understood them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, believable, wonderfully observed, 3 Sep 2012
By 
Alun Williams "mathematician manqué" (Peterborough,England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saplings (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
Unlike most people reviewing this I have never read any of Noel Streatfeild's children's books. I was drawn to the book because the other two Persephone Classics I have read have both been wonderful, and I am pleased to say this did not disappoint at all either. The book charts the effect of WWII on the Wiltshire family, which, when we first meet it on a summer holiday in Eastbourne, consists of four happy children (Laurel, Tony, Kim and Tuesday) with a caring and wise industrialist father (Alex), a charming and beautiful but narcissistic mother (Lena), ably assisted by an loving old nanny, and a perceptive young governess (Miss Glover). The outbreak of war breaks up the family as the children are first sent to stay with Alex's parents, and then later to boarding schools. Unfortunately, the cover of the 2009 edition gives away a key turning point in the plot - I wish I could have read the book without knowing it. This is a book for adults: although it is largely about children, it is not suitable for anyone under about fourteen or fifteen.
Saplings follows the development of all four children, though we perhaps care most about the two eldest, and Laurel in particular, but we also get to know a range of aunts and uncles.
Nobody reading this novel can fail to understand its main lessons: that children need a stable home or base; that adults should not dispose of children without consulting their wishes, or at least explaining to them why they are doing what they are doing. However, "Saplings" is far from being overly didactic: not the least of the pleasures of this superbly insightful novel about children, is that one of the characters is a novelist who is famed for her understanding of children - but who in practice is fairly hopeless with dealing with them.
In short, highly recommended, one of the best books I've read in a long time, and one I shall probably reread sooner rather than later.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please read especially if you have children, grandchildren or even great grandchildren, 21 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Saplings (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
I loved this book and wish I'd read it earlier - when my children were around the same age as the four children who are the central characters (about 10-16). I don't know how she does it but Noel Streatfeild perfectly describes the confusion, insecurity, isolation and (sometimes self-imposed) loneliness of childhood and how the nurture of adults can ensure that the angst of childhood is minimised but sadly can't be totally eradicated.

Communication seems to be a central theme and the value of stable family life comes a close second. Strangely I see glimmers of "About a Boy" by Nick Hornby and the need for Marcus to make more links with friends and family in order to have a sufficiently wide "support network". The same is very true for NS's children (while Lena the immature mother is very like Will, the immature man in "About a Boy") and the numerous adults in their lives are all necessary in their own way.

I'd read this book again and I'm going to read more of NS's work on the strength of this book. As a mother, I loved it but it can be read by anyone as there's a universal message of the importance of nurturing children, whether they're your own children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews or the children of friends and acquaintances, and it's all backed up by a really good, well crafted narrative.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book., 20 Aug 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Saplings (Paperback)
It's only in the past year that I've discovered Noel Streatfeild's adult books and this book and Grass in Picadilly are the best I've read yet. The characters are so real and captured me in the way that few ever do. This is a definite must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous book, 26 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Saplings (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
Loved this book. It is incredibly moving, with very likable characters. You find yourself really rooting for the children. Funny and sad in equal measure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A family torn apart by war, 14 Nov 2009
This review is from: Saplings (Persephone Classics) (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book. Its main theme is the children and how stability is so important to a childs life. The adults, in the main, seem oblivious to the way the childrens lifes are being affected by the war and the decisions made on behalf of the children by the 'grownups'.
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Saplings (Persephone Classics)
Saplings (Persephone Classics) by Jeremy Holmes (Paperback - 23 April 2009)
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