Doreen by Barbara Noble
A 1946 novel about a child who is evacuated to the country
during the war. Her mother regrets it; the family that takes her in wants
to keep her.
In 1946 the theme of Doreen was, alas, horrifyingly topical - whether parents should have sent their children away from cities that might be bombed; and if they had done so, whether they could hope to maintain their relationship with them. 'The experience of this long separation, very difficult for all concerned at the time, often proved traumatic over a lifetime' comments Jessica Mann in the preface.
Barbara Noble writes with great insight about the mind of a child, 9-year-old Doreen Rawlings, torn between her mother, whom she leaves behind in the East End of London during the Blitz, and the couple who take her in when she is evacuated to the countryside. Everyone wants only the best for Doreen yet, in the end, what is being explored is a clash of values: those looking after her will eventually realise that Doreen will go back 'to a world where most of the things you've taught her will be drawbacks rather than advantages.'
This is a deeply involving book, fascinating for the portrayal of a child trying to balance the needs of their mother and their temporary mother, as well as for its understanding of the tyrannies of the English class system. 'The manner of telling this poignant, subtle tragedy is beyond admiration, restrained, penetrating, deeply moving,' wrote Dorothy Canfield Fisher; and the Spectator reviewer described 'a gentle, serious story in which...the author's argument is scrupulously fair; she is observant, sensitive and intelligent.'
"A gentle serious story in which...everyone behaves well...the argument is scrupulously fair; she is observant, sensitive and intelligent." - Jane Rye, The Spectator
"This is a book which works phenomenally well on a number of levels. It is a book which achieves the difficult feat of recreating a child's eye perspective, and thereby opens doors into the past for the reader - you read something about how Doreen sees things and suddenly you think "Oh yes, that is just what it was like when I was little!" It is also horribly...compelling on the simplicity and absoluteness of a child's requirements - the longing for a safe structure, routine and space to be ignored and be oneself without adults requiring things of one!But in many ways my favourite aspect of the book is the fact that it is somehow, despite its wholly domestic context, a gripping novel of suspense." - Amazon reviewer
Paperback with jacket
Publisher: Persephone Books
Endpaper: The endpaper is taken from a 1940 silk scarf 'London Alert' designed by Arnold Lever for Jacqmar (it is owned by a Persephone reader).