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by Barbara Noble
Persephone book no:

59 60 61

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The Far Cry
A Well Full of Leaves
Regular price £14.00
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ISBN 9781903155509

In 1946 the theme of Doreen was, alas, horrifyingly topical - whether parents should have sent their children away from cities that might be bombed; and if they had done so, whether they could hope to maintain their relationship with them. 'The experience of this long separation, very difficult for all concerned at the time, often proved traumatic over a lifetime' comments Jessica Mann in the preface. 

Barbara Noble writes with great insight about the mind of a child, 9-year-old Doreen Rawlings, torn between her mother, whom she leaves behind in the East End of London during the Blitz, and the couple who take her in when she is evacuated to the countryside. Everyone wants only the best for Doreen yet, in the end, what is being explored is a clash of values: those looking after her will eventually realise that Doreen will go back 'to a world where most of the things you've taught her will be drawbacks rather than advantages.'

This is a deeply involving book, fascinating for the portrayal of a child trying to balance the needs of their mother and their temporary mother, as well as for its understanding of the tyrannies of the English class system. 'The manner of telling this poignant, subtle tragedy is beyond admiration, restrained, penetrating, deeply moving,' wrote Dorothy Canfield Fisher; and the Spectator reviewer described 'a gentle, serious story in which...the author's argument is scrupulously fair; she is observant, sensitive and intelligent.'


The endpaper is taken from a 1940 silk scarf 'London Alert' designed by Arnold Lever for Jacqmar (it is owned by a Persephone reader).

Read What Readers Say


Based on 3 reviews

JS, Headington

I so loved ‘Doreen’, identifying strongly with the character and similarly desperately missing my mother, who remarried in London during the Blitz while I was sent to the safety of the countryside. I have given copies to two friends, neither of whom had had similar experiences but we all adored the book’s gentle simplicity. None of us could put it down.


I finished ‘Doreen’ a few days ago and thought it quite wonderful. Barbara Noble writes beautifully and with great insight about the mind of a child torn between her mother and the couple who take her in. Doreen is likeable and utterly believable. Indeed, all of the characters are wonderfully drawn and you can empathise with every one. There is much detail about life in Britain during the war, both in the Blitz in London and in the quiet countryside. A wonderful story and much food for thought.

odetomybookshelf via Instagram

Noble's writing is stunning and her honesty allows you to get to know her characters as if they were your own dearest friends. The social history of the novel paints real lives on to old history books, bringing to life a small part of a big war. I wish I could experience it again!

Categories: Childhood Family Mothers WWII

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