Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Painted Fiction: Noel Streatfield's Painted Garden

Streatfield, Noel. The Painted Garden. First published 1949.

Although I'm familiar with many of Streatfeld's mainstream works, I'd never heard of The Painted Garden, also known in the States as Movie Shoes. The interwebs suggest that Movie Shoesis a heavily abridged imitation of the British original, so I'd recommend looking a little harder to find the original, which maintains the original Streatfield charm while offering a humorously sharp critique of American society.
Movie Shoes
The Painted Garden follows the lives of three young English children who visit their Aunt Cora in America and are, from almost the very moment of their arrival in New York, quite critical of the ways in which America differs from their beloved England. Many of the distinctions Streatfield emphasizes are still present today, and as the book progresses, the children slowly learn that different doesn't always mean worse. Two of the children come to America with well-developed artistic talents that enable them to find jobs for themselves in the Califormia society into which they enter, while Mary struggles to find a place and a purpose for her long stay. Highlights of the book include a cameo reappearance of Posy Fossil from Streatfield's first book, Ballet Shoes, as well as the gently emphasized critique of America's public transportation system. Although this book was initially intended for children, it is well-written, engaging, and an ideal volume for ex=pats who wish to reminisce about old England (or even old America).

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