Sunday, 17 April 2011
I have recently re-read
two books by Violet Needham. The reason for this is that I have been helping a children's literature student with a project. I read Violet Needham as a child. They did not seem quite so old-fashioned then and I suppose I found them vaguely exciting. Now they seem much more predictable. In "The Secret of the White Peacock" and "The Red Rose of Ruvina" the characters are not particularly well formed. The plots are weak. The conversation is stilted. I wonder what it would be like to go back to the first of the series, from memory "The Black Riders". Would it be any better? Did Needham's books improve or did they disintegrate? Her Ruritania seems to be set in some sort of vaguely not quite Eastern European country, not quite Austria or the Balkans but thereabouts. They are also seem to be oddly Victorian while still mentioning cars, trains, telephones and even 'planes. Her girls get educated at home or her boys get tutored because they have been ill. They also have to be pretty much self-sufficient at entertaining themselves. There are adults in the books but, by showing some of them as disinterested, cruel, greedy and disloyal, Needham manages to distance them from the children and allow the children to succeed fairly much alone. Nevertheless adults also get much greater attention than is usual in books for children, especially Ruritanian type adventures. It is the role of adults that concerns the current student. So, which adults do you remember in books from your childhood?