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A Vicarage family: A biography of myself

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  326 ratings  ·  46 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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3.96  · 
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 ·  326 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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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
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!
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.
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.
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.
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
i love her so hard. i need to re-read all thes shoes books now.
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 ;-)
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
Jul 28, 2017 rated it liked it
I have read a LOT of books about fiery rebellious women who had a really hard time trying to fit in during the Victorian Times when everyone thought that everything they did was Wrong and Bad. I think this is because it happened a lot.

But yeah I enjoyed this! I love this period of history (technically Edwardian not Victorian but pre-WWI anyway, it all runs together a bit in my mind). I liked the way she talked about the family, frankly and without sugar coating them. Including the 'Vicky' chara
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
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
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charming book about Noel Streatfield's childhood in a vicarage in Eastbourne. The family consists of Victoria, the middle girl and Streatfield's alter ego, Isobel, the oldest, and Louise the youngest daughter, mother and the vicar father, as well as the two boys away at school: brother Dick and cousin John. Despite being poor, the class they belong to means they also have live-in servants, since this takes place before the First World War.
Jul 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I’ve always been very fond of Noel Streatfeild books. I read them over and over as a kid and even now still enjoy them. She captures what it’s like to be a child vividly, and reading this autobiography about her own childhood shows that she has an equally vivid memory of her own childhood.

I did find it a sad read; she was clearly misunderstood by her parents and believed she was plain, naughty, with no special talents... it makes me look at her other books in a different light.
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sweet-Streatfeild-practically-an-autobiography book. The ending saddened me as you realised what year the book was culminating to but overall another nice book. Having read 4 of her books now, Ballet Shoes still reigns supreme.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-library
As this is a true story, it doesn't have the exuberant improbability of Streatfeild's other books. However, she is an interesting character.
Kami Weeks
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
A sweet reminiscence of childhood at the turn of the last century. This autobiography is written with a nod to the 1960's rebellion and individuality.
Mary BG
3.5 stars. A somewhat dark memoir about the particular difficulties of Noel Streatfeild's childhood in pre-WWI years. Her father was a vicar and, although her parents were caring, the kids were subject to strict discipline and favoritisms. The author herself evidently had lots of issues with how she was misunderstood and treated over many years expressed here in no uncertain terms. She is Victoria in the story who is regarded as difficult and rebellious and much of the narrative is devoted to wh ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I can think of several alternative titles for this book. Try "An Unpleasant Family," "A Dysfunctional Family", "The Issues of an Angry Adolescent"--and that's just three off the top of my head.

I loved the Shoe books, and they've worn well from the time I was about 11 and discovered my favourite Circus Shoes, to being of a certain age. Yes, Streatfeild was a master at portraying adolescent feelings and the never-perfect relationships between them and adults. But this book is not a very pleasant r
Katy Larkman
Aug 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: older-children
In fictionalising her early years in this novel, Noel Streatfeild does not shy away from the tensions that often lie at the heart of family life. Her heroine, Victoria, is likeable & unlikeable in turn; her mother has favourites, & her vicar father's saintliness (he is much loved by his parishioners) makes life difficult for his wife & children. This fleshing out of her characters is one of the book's strength, along with the rich period detail.

The importance of the Church is a cons
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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