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Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Vicarage Family by Noel Streathfeild

Noel Streatfeild, A Vicarage Family

First because there is confusion Noel Streathfeild is a woman. It is a fictionalized autobiography and Noel identifies with Vicky in the story.

Now that we got that out of the way, the family story set a few years before the onset of the first World War and how life was going to change for everyone, particularly for women is an enlightening read. I am beginning to wonder did everyone just sit down and take all the orders, rules and regulations that were dished out by the menfolk of the day. In this very nice family, there was no question of children being consulted about any of their likes or dislikes - this went from the small things like clothes, colours and then went on to the big issues of what you wanted to do with your life.

Parents and elders pre-determined everything and to someone like Victoria who was just different - labelled as difficult and rebellious and needing guidance and spiritual help from above, she was just the average child with decided views on what she liked or disliked. She stood out because it was not the norm. Not in this family anyway and unfortunately her Mother did not understand her at all. Her father did but from a very Victorian viewpoint of being protector and guardian and the person who knew best what was good for his children.

The story takes you through a childhood where being the Vicar's children classified you as sort of gentry, but poor, always mindful of what everyone else is saying or doing and that your life is really not your own. This went for Mother more than anyone else. How she had to be diplomatic, careful not to hurt anyone's feelings and at the same time support and provide largesse from meagre means was very good to read about.

Transferred to a new vicarage and thus to a new school Vicky comes under a more enlightened head mistress who recognizes in Vicky a girl with a mind of her own and someone who has to be more gently handled. The school is anyway not a run of the mill school and all the girls are lucky to be enrolled here.  We then move on to Britain entering the First World War and then the casualties of the war and its effect for the first time felt very strongly by the Strangeway family.

This is the first book of a trilogy and I must now check all the resources available to see whether I can lay my hands on the second and third book. 

Though restrictive on women in general, it is only girls like Vicky who felt that life was unfair. The majority of the girls seem to take what was the norm in their stride. Growing up meant marriage and motherhood and nothing else. Things obviously will change with the second book which I am looking forward to. No one is going to have debuts and then have a fancy marriage and then be a closed chapter anymore! 

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