Noel Streatfeild


Noel Streatfeild, by Howard Coster 1945 © NPG

Noel Streatfeild, b.1895, was a daughter of the Bishop of Lewes and a great-granddaughter of the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. After a rebellious childhood, she worked in a wartime munitions factory before going to RADA and becoming an actress for ten years. Her first six novels were for adults, but she was persuaded to re-work The Whicharts (1931) as a novel for children: the bestselling Ballet Shoes (1936) was strikingly original in its description of Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil’s ‘enthusiasm, toughness and self-centredness’, timeless qualities that have made it, and novels such as The Circus is Coming (1938) and When the Siren Wailed (1974), children’s classics ever since. Noel Streatfeild, who was unmarried, led a busy London literary life and, by the time she died in 1986, had written over eighty books as well as three volumes of autobiography. Saplings (1945) is the first of her novels for adults to have been reissued.

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