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A Vicarage family: A biography of myself

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  390 ratings  ·  58 reviews

A Vicarage Family is the first part in a fictionalized autobiography in which Noel Streatfeild tells the story of her own childhood, painting a poignant and vivid picture of daily life in an impoverished, genteel family in the years leading up to the First World War.

In the story there are three little girls - Isobel, the eldest, is pretty, gentle and artistic; Louise the y

Paperback, 224 pages
Published 1990 by Puffin (first published 1963)
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This is the first of Streatfeild's three volumes of fictionalized autobiography; in the forewords, Streatfeild claims to have changed only names (calling herself Victoria Strangeway), but she apparently changed other things as well, events and dates, to make them fit in better with her narrative.

The first book covers Vicky's childhood as one of "the vicarage girls", along with her sisters and brother. Streatfeild captures the point of view of a child nicely, as well as a more mature view into t
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Reading this, it is easy to see why Streatfeild is so successful at writing for children -- she clearly has a strong memory of what it felt like to be a child. Unlike her own father, she does not idealize her home or the behavior of herself and her siblings. Imaginative, stubborn, humorous, resentful, and self-conscious, "Vicky" did not fit well with her pious and well-behaved family. She paints a fascinating picture of daily life for impoverished but upper class English families before the firs ...more
I loved her books as a child. Bought this for my daughter and took a quick dip beforehand.
Jan 18, 2019 added it
Have given up for now, may come back to this. Surprising as I've loved my Streatfield books and love biographies but just couldn't get into this one! ...more
Daisy May Johnson
I recently found a copy of A Vicarage Family in a charity shop and had a 'no book left behind' moment over it. It's a book I first read a long while ago and one that left me conscious of the necessity of giving your family a suet pudding to eat before the Sunday roast, without ever being quite conscious of what a suet pudding was nor why you had to eat one before the meal. Isn't it strange the shards that books leave within you? The Vicarage Family is suet, for me, always.

But on a more practical
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Now I understand why "Saplings" was so well written! The family relationships, siblings, parents, husband to wife, grandparents, cousins, etc. it's all here. Streatfeild writes from life. How else to say it? When you've lived it, seen it, felt it - you know it enough to convince your readers. Being an actress, I think she must have always had that spirit of watching, observing, as if to embody the different people herself - this also happens to make her an excellent writer.

A great book for many
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
A Vicarage Family is the somewhat fictionalized account of Noel Streatfeild's life growing up in a vicarage during the years leading up to WWI.
In this novelization of her early years Noel becomes Victoria, the rebellious daughter who found life growing up in a vicarage to be very restricting. The middle of 3 sisters, and one brother, Victoria was often misunderstood or overlooked. Her older sister Isobel was artistic, meek and gentle. Louise, the younger sister was considered the beauty of the f
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult
I don't know that this book deserves 5 stars on any kind of literary basis. But as a lifelong "Shoes" fan, I just so enjoyed it, especially finding little bits of Noel Streatfeild's novels in this fictionalized account of her childhood. Though it wasn't a very happy childhood, all in all. Like Petrova in Ballet Shoes and Jane in Movie Shoes, she was the difficult middle child who didn't value herself because she was different. Like Santa in Circus Shoes, she played the violin very badly and coul ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, ya-fiction
‘A Vicarage Family’ left me with mixed feelings. Best classified as autobiographical fiction, this is Noel Streatfeild’s story with some embellishments, as the author couldn’t possibly know the inner thoughts of her schoolteachers and household staff. However I found it a fast read and I was quickly caught up in Victoria’s plight.

The middle child of a poor vicar’s family, Vicky is forever making resolutions to improve herself and forever failing to keep them. Her older sister Isobel is a gifted
Kate Forsyth
Noel Streatfield is a British children’s writer, most famous for her 1930s and 1940s children’s books (often called ‘the Shoes’ series, as many were published in the US with similar titles such as Ballet Shoes, Party Shoes, Skating Shoes, and so on.) She’s one of my favourite Golden Era children’s authors, and I’ve been collecting her books since I was a child.

A Vicarage Family is an autobiographical novel inspired by her own childhood growing up as a vicar’s daughter in the early 1900s. It give
Sep 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
First in a three-book memoir of Noel Streatfeild's childhood. It is reminiscent of all her "Shoes" books, particularly of the Bell Family. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Catherine Jeffrey
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-books
The semi autobiographical early life of the author. An accurate portrayal of how life feels in a family when you are seen as neither gifted or beautiful when compared to your sisters. The final chapter about her cousin John is very poignant.
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens
This is one of my favourite books from childhood and it still stands the test of time.

Noel Streatfeild was one of my favourite authors growing up and this was the first one I ever read as my mum gave me her old copy.

This is the first of a trilogy of autobiographies based on Streatfeild's life. This one is about her childhood growing up in a vicarage. According to the biography I read about her this is very accurate apart from names being changed and her cousin being a permanent member of their
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
1963 edition, hardback.

Another charming book by Noel Streatfeild, admittedly autobiographical. Now that I've read it for the first time, I can sort of "see" her character in her other books which I remember and am reading. I did especially enjoy the historical-fiction aspects of the book.

I was glad to find, from the list at the end, that calling all those books "Such-and-Such Shoes" was merely the fault of the Americans, and that the British titles actually had proper names. I mean "Ballet Shoes
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a novelized autobiography of Noel Streatfield's life (with names changed, of course, and who knows how many facts?).

A must-read if you're a fan of Noel Streatfeild! I would have guessed that she would have grown up a stage child, but her childhood was very different and her books are based more on her childhood dreams than on the way it actually was. I'm excited to read the next installment of her life, wherein I believe she actually goes on the stage (but not as a young child).
Jan 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is Noel Steatfeild's semi-autobiographical novel about her tween years growing up in England just before WWI. She was the problem child, healthy and strong-willed, sandwiched between two sisters who were less-than-healthy and better behaved than she. The writing, like the character, is a little bumpy and uneven, but it is a good coming of age story and an interesting picture of a shabby genteel family in pre-war England. ...more
Mar 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
When I was a child I loved Noel Streatfeild books. I think it was the combination of the performing and the relationship of the sisters. I had almost forgotten them until I saw this memoir. Cant imagine growing up in that environment myself, but her story was interesting. The intrusion of war made me want to read more.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
First part of the trilogy autobiography of Noel Streatfeild. Detailed account of a British family's life before World War One: Noel S is the daughter, Vicky, who seems to do everything wrong and (in her mind) is the least loved. Not always a cheery book, but I enjoy living NS's life with her. ...more
i love her so hard. i need to re-read all thes shoes books now.
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
The first of a trilogy of autobiography, although the names were changed to make the author "more comfortable" about writing it. Fascinating and a little dark. ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
See my review on my book blog: ...more
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first Noel Streatfield I've read. Thoroughly engaging, once I was well into it - an old-fashioned family story but unsentimental in its characterizations.. Rounded up from 3.5 ;-) ...more
Harsha Priolkar
Feb 06, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
3.5 stars.

For a large part of this book I was angry, just like Vicky was. My heart went out to her for the awkwardness and confusion she suffered, growing up with parents so wrapped up with serving the community and caring for her siblings who had 'easy' tempers, that she felt unloved and uncared for. I'm so thankful that she had her sister Isobel and her cousin John as confidantes and cheer-leaders to make up for her unfortunately conservative if well-intentioned parents.

She was by no means an
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I started this and couldn’t get into it. I picked it up again a month later and finished it in two days. So who knows? Suffice it to say, I ended up loving this fictionalized account of Noel Streatfeild’s teenage years. She reminds me so much of Jo March, a tomboy, rambunctious, naughty, high spirited, a writer, imaginative. I love her relationships with her siblings, especially Isobel, with her cousin John, and with the headmistress of her second school Miss French.

The details of Edwardian lif
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This isn't a truly fantastic book or even unusually well-written. However, it is comfort reading for those who like stories about late Victorian/Edwardian-era families, particularly those with awkward, overlooked, and sometimes troublesome middle children. Knowing that it is most autobiographical also adds to its charm and helps the reader overlook the fact that it is more episodic than plot-driven. It provides a window into the normal lives of a slightly less than middle-class family in another ...more
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life can be hard for naughty girls. Girls who are intelligent and misunderstood by their elders. These are the girls who go out and make a difference. Bold, willful, risk-takers. I love reading about them and their misdeeds and adventures. Our heroine in this novel, Victoria Strangeways, based on the author herself wrote about her life in her vicarage family in the early 1910s thinking everybody was mean to her. Nobody understood her, except her cousin John. Vicky reminds me of other heroines, s ...more
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, for-the-kids
Super interesting for anyone who grew up reading Streatfeild, as I did, since the basic wellsprings for her writing are clearly exposed. Also instructive, not to mention mildly horrifying, as to Victorian and post-Victorian paternalistic attitudes. I still cannot bring myself to believe that a parent would confirm his child against their express will (that might also be my Presbyterian and Calvinist ancestors though, no truck with Anglicanism low or otherwise there).

It's an interesting counterp
Sandy Anderson
This, the first of three autobiographical books, takes us from Noël (called Victoria or Vicky) in this book at age 10 to age 16. She renames herself and the other members of her family and plays a bit with dates, but the emotions of her family relationships and feeling about herself as a child are all there, at least as far as I could tell.
The other interesting thing to me was that in her f description of herself and others, I could see the characters in some o her books and the distinctive rela
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of Noel Streatfeild's best books, in my opinion - such a pity that it's so hard to get hold of the second and third volumes of this fictionalized autobiography. This book also makes it very clear that many of her books were drawn from real-life experiences. My only quibble would be that the end of the book seems quite rushed; from Isobel's society debut on, the years until 1914 are packed into just a few pages. Otherwise a very charming account of a childhood lived in a different era with al ...more
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Mary Noel Streatfeild, known as Noel Streatfeild, was an author best known and loved for her children's books, including Ballet Shoes and Circus Shoes. She was born on Christmas Eve, 1895, the daughter of William Champion Streatfeild and Janet Venn and the second of six children to be born to the couple. Sister Ruth was the oldest, after Noel came Barbara, William ('Bill'), Joyce (who died of TB p ...more

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