I just finished An Episode of Sparrows, by Rumer Godden, and its ‘Juvenile Fiction’ label is definitely a misnomer. True, Lovejoy is probably the main character–although not quite in a conventional way–and she’s ‘almost eleven,’ but the omniscient narrator spends a noticeable amount of time on more than one adult. Lovejoy is probably the reason for the label, but Lovejoy’s story is not really a story for children to read; the thought of explaining some of what is happening in this book to my seven-year-old makes me shudder. It’s not offensive or dirty in any way, mind you. It’s just that the characters’ motivations, their actions, their life stories…all of these things are likely to go over intermediate readers’ heads, be irrelevant to their lives, or to bore them because they don’t emotionally understand them yet. There is real tragedy here, the kind that I felt deeply but my children–thank heavens–would not understand. It does end on a hopeful (and thoroughly enjoyable!) note, though.
Ok, this is a particularly vague review, isn’t it. To be more specific, then, An Episode of Sparrows was inspired by The Secret Garden, and it takes place in (immediately) post-World War II London. The ‘sparrows’ of the title are the street children, and their lives and experiences are contrasted (rather vividly) with those of the few wealthy adults in the story.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that. It’s hard to avoid spoilers for this one, so I’ll leave it at this–I absolutely enjoyed it, but it was nothing like what I thought it would be. It’s also got a quirky sort of tone, but I got used to that. If the subject interests you, go and read. It would actually make an excellent book club pick!