Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Title: Saplings
Author: Noel Streatfield
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 377
Published: 1945
Date Finished: 6 April 2009
My Rating: 5 Stars
Challenges: 100+, WWII, Decades, RYOB, Seconds

"Really! I wish I didn't have to grow up. Do you know, Alice, I'm beginning to wonder if we've not been told things wrong. I mean, we're told that children behave badly and grown-ups are always right. I wonder if we shan't find that grown-ups do worse things than children." (240)

This heart-wrenching and painful book really packed an emotional wallop for me. It is not what I would characterize as one of those "charming" books I love to read. In fact, at times it was downright difficult to read, but I still really came away loving this book. Sounding a bit contradictory arn't I? I just found this book to be a powerful and moving story about the sad destruction of a family.
The saplings from Streatfield's novel are the four Wiltshire children, Laurel, Tony, Kim and Tuesday, whose lives are uprooted and forever altered due to war.
Before the outbreak of World War II the Wiltshire family led a pretty typical middle class life, with a nanny, governess, nice home in London and trips to the beach. Granted their mother, Lena, was not an ideal mother, she really saw her children as more of an accessory to be trotted out for other people to admire than as her children, to be loved and cared for, but their lives were still happy, good and pretty carefree.
"Laurel, at eleven, was conscious of being happy. 'I'll never be as happy again. When I'm quite old , as old as thirty, I'll come back to this bit of Eastbourne. I'll come on the same day in June and remember me now.' Then, because of the tight, bursting feeling of pleasure, she turned two cartwheels and attempted to stand on her hands." (1)
The disintegration of the family begins when the children are sent to live with their grandparents in the country and their mother stays behind in London with their father because she thinks it is more important that she be with her husband than with her children. As the novel progresses the children deal with more loss and their lives become more and more shattered. The adults in their lives do not listen to or understand the children and are the cause of most of their suffering. Yes, the war was a catalyst for their suffering but if the adults in their lives had been able to provide some stability the children could have fared better. I can't tell you how angered I got reading this book because of the adult characters who should have been looking out for and taking care of these children and instead only made their lives more tragic.
Published in 1945, this novel takes a psychological look at the war and its impact on children as the events were unfolding. A powerfully drawn story about war and loss. I think I will be revisiting this one again some day.


Natasha @ Maw Books said...

This sounds like a book that I would be really interested in. Thanks for the review!

Michelle said...

I hadn't heard of this before your review, but it sounds good. Noel Streatfield? Didn't he write Ballet Shoes?

Jeanette said...

Natasha-If you ever do read it, I am sure you'll like it.

Michelle-He is a she. :-) You are not the first person that I've come across that thinks Noel Streatfield is a man. Darn unisex names. And yes, she wrote the Ballet Shoes book. This one is also from the children's point of view like her shoe books but very much for an adult audience. Not so feel good as her shoe books. You should find a copy and read it. You live in the UK, right? I had to order mine from over there but thankfully Persephone has decent prices for the books and shipping them overseas.

Jo said...

I really liked this when i read it. I remember being sad at how the events left all four children damaged. I also hoped that today, some of the signs would be picked up at the children's schools as the schools seemed to do as much damage as the parents. It was interesting to read how war can affect children.

Danielle said...

I have this one and can't wait to get to it!

Anna said...

We posted an excerpt of your review here.

Diary of an Eccentric