My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Streatfeild season comes when you least expect it. For me, it came earlier this week with the sight of Tennis Shoes on a library trolley, and then, as I read it and the evenings started to twist around the end of Summer and things like Yorkshire puddings and joints of beef found their way into the fridge, I realised that it was most definitely Streatfeild season and it was good. It was time for the rich books, the books of tumultous family and bright, hard-working children that don’t jib and don’t jibe but just do , yet never, somehow, irritate.
I’d never read Tennis Shoes before. It is … very …. tennisy. But! It is also rather lovely. It’s a madly readable book written in that relaxed, rich style of Streatfeild. The family is immense, close, loving, annoying, and the children are delights. There’s always a part of me that loves the complex child in these stories because they are, so often, the richest of characters. Nicky, here, is spectacularly irritating but also spectacularly brilliant. The contradiction of character. Streatfeild revels in it. There’s much here in the family and sibling dynamics that reminded me of A Vicarage Family; both books have this kind of delightful rich, direct tone about them.
The big difficulty about Tennis Shoes comes with its structure. It finishes far too soon and almost offhandedly. There’s a great, immense book here that could have been something rather brilliant, I suspect, but we only get to see a fragment of it. It’s a good fragment, and a delightful read, yet it’s a fragment shorn from something bigger. There’s more of a story, and the ending is too soon. But then, I suppose with Streatfeild, it always sort of is.