What’s it all about?:
In The Children of the New Forest, Marryat describes the trials and triumphs of the four Beverley children, orphaned during the English Civil War and forced to take refuge with a poor woodsman in the New Forest.
What did I think?:
This book tells the story of four children – Edward, Humphrey, Alice and Edith, whose distinguished father Colonel Beverley is killed during the English Civil War while fighting the cause of King Charles and as a result, they become orphaned. An old forester, Jacob Armitage, whilst walking in the woods one days hears a group of men fighting against the king aka Roundheads forging a plan to set fire to Colonel Beverley’s mansion, burning everything within, meaning that the children are in mortal danger. He immediately sets out to the grand house to warn the children’s aunt and guardian, who refuses to leave the property. He manages to persuade her that he should take the children however, and raise them as his own grand-children while teaching them the ways of the forest so they may be able to provide for themselves whilst concealing their identities. This is due to the king having fled, and Cromwell having England under his thumb. If the children’s identities are revealed, it could be incredibly dangerous for them. The children pass some happy years in this manner with the love and tutelage of the old man, until he dies, and the children have to learn to survive on their own.
To be honest, when I started this book, I had a bit of trouble understanding how children could enjoy it. The subject matter seemed slightly too complex, and there are not many what I call “major action sequences.” In fact, not much goes on of much interest, apart from a few fairly exciting hunting expeditions. It was almost what I can imagine the children of Narnia’s lives to be like minus the war, wardrobe and talking animals. There are some interesting characters, Pablo their adopted gypsy boy was quite entertaining, along with the villain of the piece whose vendetta against the Edward I quite enjoyed and the adorable old forester Jacob Armitage. Disappointedly, the female characters seem like non-entities, with not much to say for themselves which is a shame. Not that this book is all bad… the historical element is very intriguing, and I wouldn’t mind learning more about this period of history. As a classic piece of children’s literature however, I think there were MUCH better books written around this time.
Please see my sister Chrissi’s fabulous review HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):