Friday 22 November 2013

Children of the New Forest

Children of the New Forest, by Frederick Marryat, is children's historical fiction about the English Civil War. It is almost impossible to write about the Civil War without having some sort of bias and this book has a clear leaning to the Cavaliers (the King's men).

A Cavalier is killed at the Battle of Naseby leaving a young family. His wife dies soon after leaving the four children as orphans. During the escape of Charles I, the family home is razed and the children are presumed to have been killed, instead, they are taken to the depths of the New Forest, in Hampshire, by an elderly forester and brought up, under his surname, to be self sufficient. The children live in seclusion as foresters and there is fascinating detail about stalking the deer, capturing cattle and New Forest ponies. 

Of course, the story doesn't end there. The children come across the Roundhead Forest chief official, the Intendant, who, of course, they dislike, at first. After the eldest child, Edward, has saved the Intendant's only child from a house fire, they gradually come to know and appreciate the qualities of Mr Heatherstone, the Intendant. There is an increase of understanding about why Parliament revolted but a deep and continued dislike of Cromwell's regime and of the "murder" of the King. 

Edward leaves to fight for the new "King" who later became Charles II and finally, all ends well at the Restoration of the Monarchy.

What did I think of this book? My natural sympathies are more with the Parliamentarians but I loved this book. It made me think more about the rights and wrongs of killing the monarch and about totalitarian regimes of different types. Perhaps, the most lasting impression is from Jacob Armitage, the old forester, who had a clear aim that he needed to bring up the children so that they could manage without him. Isn't that what we are aiming for with our children?

This is an ideal book to help children look at issues, such as the Civil War, from different points of view. It is particularly interesting for anyone who knows the New Forest. Recommended for older children. I downloaded a free copy on my Kindle app but being an old book, and way out of copy write issues, paperbacks are available cheaply.

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