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4.5 out of 5 stars
The Shrimp and the Anemone (FF Classics)
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 August 2016
Having absolutely adored The Go-Between last year I eagerly sought out another book by this twentieth century author.
The Shrimp and the Anemone is the first of a trilogy about siblings Eustace and Hilda. Eustace is the younger, a mere nine years old when we first meet him and Hilda is his older sister by four years. Hilda is strongly committed in making sure young Eustace follows the path of goodness, she is his moral guardian in all things. In fact Hilda is scary in the way she both makes Eustace do things, such as talk to an old invalid lady, which I am certain she would not have, whilst also making sure he never strains himself, being in the Edwardian parlance of the day ‘a sickly child’

The book opens with a description of a shrimp being half-eaten by an anemone and the children impotently trying to rescue it with the shrimp ultimately dying but not without it having a profound effect on poor Eustace. The author shows his immense skill in not labouring the point he is making, there is not ‘see the lesson’ tone to this part but the luminance of the writing does set the reader up well for the rest of the book.

Set in inter-war Hunstanton, on the north-west Norfolk coast L.P. Hartley renamed the area Anchorstone and the children spend hours on the beach building fantastic moats with an air of seriousness of endeavour that seems to have quite disappeared in the intervening near century. Set at the time it is, there is no escaping the importance of class, and ‘knowing your place’ with the children’s father a working man, albeit in an office, is subtly compared to the man who picks them up in the trap to take them on a day-out where Eustace is allowed to sit on the box with the driver as a special treat.

The beauty of the book is in reading about the children’s pastimes, Eustace’s illness and their relationships with other members of the household whilst at the same time glimpsing the way they are both mystified by the actions of the adults around them. One thing you can’t accuse this author of is not being able to recreate the way that children view the world, which often authors spectacularly fail to capture in all its facets. As the book progresses we meet others in the vicinity, including Dick Staverly who takes a shine to Hilda who is growing to be a beautiful young lady. Hilda is aware of the effect she has, and that there is a rival for Dick’s attention so all eyes are on her method of handling this quandary which serves to lend another facet to her character.

While the characters of the two children are exceptionally vivid, the rest of the family is far more sketchy. Their father is in turns jovial and irritated by his children, their mother died soon after the birth of their youngest sister, a mere baby. The household is completed by the stern and severe aunt who bustles in and out of the story-line mainly trying to impress the father to take more interest in his offspring.

Whilst there are parallels with The Go-Between this is a far more benign tale, so whilst a secret is at the heart of the book, it isn’t of the same type of moral nature, although it’s important enough for me to want to find out what happens to this family in the next book; The Sixth Heaven.
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on 28 September 2016
A sensitive, well written, book but now rather dated. Some novels are timeless but this isn't one of them. Might read the next two books in the trilogy but I'm not in a rush to do so.
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on 16 February 2017
Just as required
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on 9 December 2006
This classic tale continues to entertain and delight readers of all ages. It is set in Hunstanton, on the NW Norfolk coast, called Anchorstone in the novel, and fully conveys the fresh atmosphere of the English seaside of a century ago.

For the mature reader, a great deal of the novel's literary value lies in Hartley's ability to represent the child's mind, not only taken up with childish activities, but also casting puzzled glances into the adult world, encountering the elderly and the not-so-beautiful and struggling to understand adult concepts and conversation. Then there is the relationship between Eustace and his older sister, as she seeks to replace their dead mother and guide him in his growing up: a relationship which was meant to explain that of their later years; but frankly, the rest of the trilogy is something of an anti-climax. Better for most readers to go on and tackle his weightier masterpiece, "The Go-between".
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on 25 February 2015
After the " The Go-Between", the Eustace and Hilda trilogy, of which this is the first volume, is probably the best-known of L.P.Hartley's works - a charming evocation of inter-war childhood and the relationship between a young boy and his slightly older, rather domineering sister. It does encourage you to find out what happens to the children in the later volumes.
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on 18 November 2014
This is as charming as his better known book,The Go Between. Like that book it is centered around a young boy who does not fully understand the adult world.
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First published in 1944 this is the first book of the Eustace and Hilda trilogy. Here we meet Eustace when he is just nine and his elder sister Hilda is thirteen. Both are in the latter half of that age range and so will soon have their birthdays, although this story finishes before then.

This isn’t really what you could call a coming of age tale as the main character is still too young to really know what is happening around him. We are told that Eustace is as such a slightly weakly child due to past illness, but we never really know what he has suffered from, and whether as is likely he is mollycoddled to a great extent. With his elder sister he also has a younger one, and they live with their father and aunt, as well as servants, as their mother has passed away.

I’ve never been too sure how well this book has ever done, although I know that it isn’t that popular today, although it does have something still to offer us. There is quite a bit of humour here as we read of things through Eustace’s eyes, and so with his imagination he sees how he may become a hero and such like of certain situations. Because of his age and his imagination he does get into trouble at times, but it is the things that he comes out with or thinks because he only overhears part of a conversation that create amusement in us as readers. For instance when he overhears that he is going away, he hasn’t heard the whole conversation, and so what is being talked about, sending him to a boarding school, to him means that he is shortly to die.

There are sexual connotations here with an older boy taking an interest in Hilda, but once again she is perhaps a little too young to understand what the compliments and things being said to her mean. Both the children are still ignorant of the sexuality that will blossom in their bodies and change them. There are a few disturbing moments here though as well, as we see that despite his age the Nanny still helps Eustace with his bathing, and dries him. Also due to a comment made we have to wonder how well developed Hilda is, as she still shares the same room with her brother, and what he thus probably sees.

So in all this does make for an interesting read, which can be just as disturbing in places as it is amusing, and may still appeal to some.
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on 14 May 2001
After studying the novel "The go-between" for my advanced subsidiary level earlier this year, I was pleasantly surprised to find that L. P. Hartley's fantastic talent in portraying adolescence and the issues related to this, is further enhanced through the novel "the shrimp and the anemone". The book, set in Edwardian times, centres around a nine-year old boy named Eustace. The opening scene provides the reader with a brief insight into his kind nature, as well as introducing his rather formidable sister, Hilda, who is three years his senior. Eustace is marvellously portrayed in the novel, and one can genuinely assume that there are broad parallels in this book with "the go-between". I throughly recommend that one reads "the go between" either before or after reading this novel since it compliments the book to a great extent. The shrimp and the anemone is a tale about growing up and the problems one faces. Hartley does well in writing this book since funerals and inheritance are not commonplace amongst the dilemnas which a young child has to face! The story developes and little twists emerge in the plot, subtlely, however as effective to the reader as could possibly be. A marvellous read for anyone who is interested in Hartley's work or even those who love to read about people and relationships. As well as providing a thoroughly enjoyable tale, Hartley gives one insights into the time in which the novel is set in, and so the issues of class differences, a rigid social hierarchy and the value placed on moral issues are underlying factors. A masterpiece in it's own right, although, in my opinion, even more so when viewed alongside the other masterpieces of LP.Hartley!
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