Monday, July 20, 2009

A Vicarage Family

Title: A Vicarage Family
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Pages: 246
Genre: Autobiography
Published: 1963
Date Finished: 11 July 2009
My Rating: 4 Stars
Challenges: Decades, Library, 100+

A Vicarage Family is the somewhat fictionalized account of Noel Streatfeild's life growing up in a vicarage during the years leading up to WWI.
In this novelization of her early years Noel becomes Victoria, the rebellious daughter who found life growing up in a vicarage to be very restricting. The middle of 3 sisters, and one brother, Victoria was often misunderstood or overlooked. Her older sister Isobel was artistic, meek and gentle. Louise, the younger sister was considered the beauty of the family and Vicky? She was the odd one out, plain with seemingly little talent.
Fortunately as the story progressed Vicky started to find her footing and began to realize that she might not be so plain or talentless. (And as we know she went on to become a talented actress and popular author.) While her mischievous streak left her family frustrated and concerned, I found Vicky to be a highly misunderstood, caring, fun and smart girl.
For me Victoria's story was a little different but also similar to the experiences of others in the years leading up to WWI. Like most young people of the era Vicky was really unaware of all that was brewing in the world around her, specifically the events that would lead to war. However, I think living a sheltered life in a vicarage perhaps made Vicky and her family even more naive than some of her contemporaries.
I really enjoyed this book and found all the characters to be very distinct and interesting in their own way. I often found myself wondering what her family members thought of the story and her not always necessarily glowing descriptions of them. Streatfeild addressed this dilemma herself:
"How does the autobiographer handle a brother and sisters? A father and mother? How they looked, how they appeared to me as persons- yes. But what they were like inside?
It is because of my awareness that my portraits of the rest of my family are probably faulty that I have used no real names. The thin shield of anonymity helped me feel unselfconscious in drawing them, and in approaching the facts of my own life."
Her mother, in particular, I found to be rather beastly at times. But Streatfeild made it clear that in later years the two become much closer than they were when she was a child.
In the end I was left wanting to know more about this family and in particular what becomes of the 3 sisters. There are two more autobiographical novels that Streatfeild wrote but unfortunately I am having a difficult time tracking down copies. If I find them, I will read them.


Lit and Life said...

I love Streatfield's books. I think I'm going to have to read this as well.

Toddler Toys said...

This is a good book.

verity said...

I loved this book and it was brilliant reading about Noel's life, in a book that was written in a similar style to her fiction. There are actually three more parts to the autobiography, which aren't quite as good but definitely well worth reading if you can lay your hands on them.