Friday, July 18, 2014

The Bell Family, Noel Streatfeild

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Noel Streatfeild's The Bell Family, a novel about a poor yet happy family, charms and delights with every page.

Noel Streatfeild started her career as an actress, but when she found the acting jobs drying up, she turned to her pen. Originally Streatfeild was writing novels for adults, but at the urging of her editor, she tried her hand at writing for children and her famous novel Ballet Shoes was the result. The Bell Family is actually based on a radio serial Streatfeild wrote for BBC's Children's Hour. It was enormously popular and ran for six years.

The story, naturally enough, centres around the Bell family who live at St Mark's Vicarage in south-east London. The area is a poor one, but it is bustling and quite cheerful nonetheless.

The Bells are always struggling to make ends meet and the children are frequently trying to come up with schemes for making more money to help out. Their mother, Cathy, is always fretting over not having enough decent clothing to take everyone out for social occasions.

Despite all the family's privations, they stick together and use their ingenuity to solve problems.

Noel Streatfeild herself grew up in a vicarage, and she brings a wonderful realism to The Bell Family with all of its small domestic details. In tone the book is a mix between Eve Garnett's The Family From One End Street and R.C. Sheriff's The Fortnight in September, both novels that deal in the joys and occasional disappointments of family life. This is a novel that charms and delights with every page. It's quite perfect in every way.

The Bell Family, by Noel Streatfeild. Published by Vintage Classics. ISBN: 9780099583363  RRP: $12.99

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