14/01/2006

The Children of Primrose Lane

This is one of Noel Streatfeild's earlier books, written during the Blitz years of World War II. It features six children, aged 9-14, who live in council houses in a short lane. There's a fourth house in the lane which is unoccupied, and which they use as a den... until one day a stranger arrives and takes refuge there. The children, well-versed in war safety, think he's probably a German spy, but because one of them has been rather indiscreet they don't feel able to report him to the authorities. Instead they try to hide him, and then when he escapes there's an exciting chase as they trail him as far as the coast.

It's a book for children, really intended to capture the interest of children in the 1940s, so inevitably it's a bit dated. Yet the children's characters seem quite modern: they are good friends, but squabble from time to time. They're loyal to each other, but also to their own families. They worry perhaps more than necessary about the consequences of their actions rather than trusting their parents and the police.

But it's a fascinating piece of social history from childrens' perspectives. Despite being a dangerous time to live, from the point of view of the war, the children are pretty much free to go where they please and do what they like. Their parents don't know they spend much of their time in the unoccupied house, and when they take off in search of the man, a quick phone call seems to be sufficient to reassure their parents.

The book isn't currently in print but can sometimes be found second-hand. Recommended for children of about eight and over who are interested in the war years, or who like an exciting adventure. Also for anyone who likes Noel Streatfeild's work, although unusually there are no musical or dancing prodigies!

1 comment:

Susan said...

Thanks for the review! This was my favorite book as a child in Australia in the early '70s. I couldn't remember the name of the book, and had no idea of who the author was, so it was purely thanks to an online search based on my vague recollection of the plot that I was able to find the name of the book.

Now, I'm trying to locate a copy of the book here in the US without much succes..