Antonia Forest, and a question of class

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Sun May 4 03:35:34 EDT 2003


>         Don't for a minute think I'm condoning the class attitudes
>Forest's characters expouse, but I think they are worth mentioning as they
>are one of the really unique characteristics of her books, along with the
>lifelike characters, the religious tensions & the high standard of writing
>& the general realism. I've often wondered if those class attitudes are
>there because of her commitment to realism or if they are her attitudes.
>She has a tendency to get her characters, especially Patrick, to voice her
>feelings about religion, and especially the consequences of Vatican II, at
>every available opportunity after all... But I really don't know.

  I remember being incensed when I read that mean-spirited little entry 
about Forest in the Oxford Companion to Children's Lit years ago - it said 
something like, her books had merit, but they were very narrowly about a 
certain class. I just thought puh-lease! How many children's books that are 
regarded as "worthy" are about very narrow socio-economic groups? But 
somehow, if it is about poor or working-class people that's good 
literature, and anything about any other group is not. Forest was one of 
the few authors I read as a young adult that seemed to say something to me 
about my situation, specifically. I felt like the Marlows were on a par 
with my family - 2 academics for parents, so comfortably off, but they were 
eccentric. I went to a girls' school, but didn't board. I think Kingscote 
had a lot in common with my school, especially the attitudes of the girls.

>         Some of the time. Not always. Remember we see most things through
>Nicola's eyes & Nicola's thoughts and actions aren't always honourable.
>Sometimes she can be very nasty, bullying, and full of contempt for others
>who she thinks are weaker than she is. She's so likeable though that these
>times can be hard to spot! And one of the most honourable characters in
>her books, Ann, gets an *extremely* rough ride, being derided by everyone
>for being a sap... This I suspect is Forest's twisted sense of humour
>coming into play. BUt maybe she really means it. who knows. But it isn't
>pleasant...

Ann deserves everything she gets. Ginty is the misunderstood one...

Robyn 
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