Sunday, September 18, 2011

Apple (Bough) of a Reader's Eye

Streatfield, Noel. Apple Bough. Lions, 1999 (1962).

This is, perhaps, a splendid book to read for previous fans of Streatfield's work, although I would not recommend it for first-time readers of the author of such splendid texts as Ballet Shoes or the less stage-struck novels of his I read earlier this summer. Apple Bough tells the story of a family of six: young Sebastian is a gifted violinist, and his siblings, while talented in other areas, have not attained the levels of skill that enable Sebastian to embark upon a world tour, instrument in hand and family in tow (for a time).

The bulk of the novel is spent describing the increasing dissatisfaction with which siblings Myra, Wolfgang, and Ethel approach their life as travellers in their brother's wake, and the many plots they hatch in secret, hoping that their family can settle down again. The focus of the book is upon family ties and the importance of familial unity, and Streatfield drives his plot home, as it were, with focus and determination. While the characters are not as compelling as those in many of his other novels, and the plot grows stale to the reader as the incessant travelling grows dull to the children, the themes thus portrayed work elegantly within this context, and the book itself would provide an important starting point for a number of valuable discussions that parents might wish to have with their progeny. Otherwise, this is a book for Streatfield's diehard fans, and one that is unlikely to leave too lasting an impression in the wake of his finer works.

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