Children of upstairs, friends of downstairs

From Goodreads
From Goodreads

The Children of Charlecotethey don’t stay young forever…

The Children of Charlecote, written by Brian Fairfax-Lucy (on whose childhood it was based) and Philippa Pearce (of Tom’s Midnight Garden fame), had promising authors. It had a promising plot-a glimpse into how the upper classes lived in the early 20th Century. And the vast majority of it was a very good read, enthralling in its descriptions of how the other half lived, and how their lives evolved with the huge changes in world politics.  

We follow the story of four children, growing up at the magnificent stately home of Charlecote in Warwickshire. Tom, the leader of the mischief and adventures, is absent apart from holidays at boarding school, Laura and Hugh follow willingly (most of the time), and are fiercely loyal, and little Margaret tags along too. Their aristocratic parents are no friends of the children, instead, the rag-tag bunch of servants befriend the foursome-or is it the other way around?

Let me say from the off that I didn’t feel much for the characters. Tom is an arrogant airhead who can be foolhardy and downright idiotic, and seems incapable of being aware of his-or others-safety. The others I just feel a bit lukewarm about-the fact that I can’t base judgement on the age (as it isn’t given) means I can’t tell if they are just like most children of about 8 or 9 or just poorly brought up children of 13.

Charlecote Park. Image from the National Trust
Charlecote Park. Image from the National Trust

The way that Fairfax-Lucy and Pearce write the story, we are given both sides of the story-theirs and their parents, and so can judge for ourselves if they were fair and just or harsh-abusive even. Personally, I feel that the frigidity of both parents, but especially their father Sir Robert is conveyed very well by the authors, they show rather than tell.

The same cannot be said later on, and I dislike the way some facts are presented. However, I felt this largely dried up as the story progressed, and despite no significant plot, it became very well told, emotional, and told from the heart, and strangely captivating.

It was as if there were two sections to the book, the preliminary (which I wasn’t very fond of) and the secondary, which was more interesting, narrated better, and much more in touch with the reader’s emotions. The first was a bit slower, duller, and had less life-but it was still passable, still reasonably good. But the second section was a killer, a beautifully flowing piece of writing.

Opening words-

Before going to sleep last night Hugh had beaten his head repeatedly on the pillow: one—two—three—four–five.

Character development-poor initially, but grew good in the second half, and they were fairly good, detailed, interesting, and almost relatable-★★★½

Readability-the one area in which the novel excelled throughout, it was excellent, and if anything, a little too short-★★★★★

Overall-it was like reading two books, such was the marked difference, but the book is so short that the worse section is over in the blink of an eye, and is replaced with excellent and captivating storytelling-★★★★½ (88)

5 thoughts on “Children of upstairs, friends of downstairs

  1. What an interesting review. I love books like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day and E.M. Forster’s Howards End. Not sure I’d want to tackle this one after reading your review. I might check into it further… Good job staying objective. You’re really good at this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wasn’t really sure what to think, because I wasn’t really a fan of the first section, but thought the second section was quite good. I quite liked The Remains of the Day when I read it, but haven’t read Howards End-would you recommend it? Children of Charlecote was one I found when visiting Charlecote, but it’s not too long if you did want to read it. Thank you for your compliments, I try and put a little objectivity into my reviews so that they’re not only an analysis of the words, but of what I like-after all, reviews are personal things… Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did like Howards End. They’re all kind of slow, but they appeal to me. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. I even read Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett. THAT was an odd one. And The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Loved that, but was sad.

        Liked by 1 person

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