Ballet Shoes For Anna
I hadn't read Ballet Shoes For Anna for many years, and only some parts of the story had stayed with me. The opening chapters, where the children are orphaned in an earthquake (very dramatic for a Noel Streatfeild novel!) were still vividly imprinted on my mind, and the characters of the three children were as distinct as ever: conscientious elder brother Francesco, spirited Gussie, and Anna, who lives only for her dancing. The details of the boys' struggles to scrape up money secretly for Anna's ballet lessons, and Gussie's entanglement in The Gang, had faded from my memory.
There was one forgotten aspect of the novel that really struck me this time around. The three orphans, children of a nomadic artist, arrive from Turkey to land on the doorstep of their conventional, pompous uncle in deepest English suburbia. 'The Uncle' cannot tolerate disruption to his routine or any displays of eccentric, 'foreign' behaviour and flies into a rage if he's crossed. Sound familiar??? Even the family name, Docksay, is not a million miles away from Dursley!
I'm certainly not saying JK Rowling consciously copied this situation for her novels, and in Streatfeild's story, there is a mitigating, sympathetic aunt and no Dudley; but 'The Uncle' is such a striking figure and the experience of the orphaned outsiders being dropped into an unfamiliar, strait-laced world is poignant and memorable, the best element of the book.
JK and I are almost exactly the same age and I would be surprised if she hadn't read and loved this book at the same time that I did. This was a happy trip down memory lane.