An Episode of Sparrows
If Rumer Godden were a pen, she would be a very fine, precise nib which makes clear, delicate portraits. Her writing is fine in every sense. In a way, An Episode of Sparrows is an updated version of The Secret Garden (another eternal favourite of my childhood): in grimy, scarred, post-war London, two children conspire to make a hidden garden behind a church; are discovered and thwarted; but ultimately saved.
When Alice was younger, there was one episode of Friends that she couldn't bear to view -- the one where Joey buys Chandler a hideous friendship watch that Chandler loathes. Alice couldn't stand to witness poor Joey's hurt.
In a similar way, I think as a child I would have found this book unbearably painful. The characters are too poignant. Poor little Lovejoy, patiently waiting for her flighty mother's return. Brave Vincent, struggling to provide nothing but the very best in his little restaurant, even if no diners come. Quiet Olivia, who watches everything and does nothing -- until the end. Kind Father Lambert, wise and lonely. Even mean, bitter Cassie has her own troubles.
This is a beautiful, tender book, but be prepared for a few lump-in-throat moments along the way.