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Saplings

4.7 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B0018D668I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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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