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Books by Cynthia Harnett

Cynthia Harnett's historical novels for children are a thin wrapper around a history text book of the "How we used to live" variety. I say that not to deprecate them but to admire the fact that she manages this feat without its being noticeable. Each book has a lightweight plot which usually takes in something of the politics of the day along with the more personal story of a boy or girl of the time. But the plot is really a clothesline on which to hang the customs and costumes of the period in which the book is set. Her own illustrations of the people and the objects she's describing add to the appeal.

For those books set before the Reformation, the characters' natural faith and piety are truly edifying. Whether you share the same faith or not, you understand all the better how it is that someone might live according to Christian beliefs in their everyday life without sacrificing anything of their business, their friendships and their family life.

According to her entry in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Cynthia Harnett was born in Kensington in 1893 and studied art at the Chelsea School of Art before studying and collaborating with her artist cousin G. Vernon Stokes. Her own early interest in ruined castles and old churches led her to write books for children which she hoped would engender in them a similar interest in the history of ordinary people. She died in 1981 in Maryfield Convent nursing home in Hook, Hants.

(Thanks to Anne Hatter for the Biographical information)


The Historical Stories of Cynthia Harnett

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive → Edifying

Gentle, readable and edifying historical stories featuring youngsters in homely situations between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Historical

Ring out Bow Bells!

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Dickon is apprenticed to Master Whittington, former mayor of London and head of a house of Mercers, although Dickon's own family are victuallers - old enemies of the clothiers.

Family, Historical

The Wool-Pack

Style: Good

Attitude: Edifying

Nicholas Fetterlock is the son of a Cotswolds wool merchant at the end of the 15th century when the wool had made such merchants and the country rich.

Classic, Family, Historical

The Writing on the Hearth

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Stephen, whose father was bodyguard to his Lord of Suffolk, is under taken into the Lord's household when his stepfather remarries and his sister enters a convent.

Edifying and interesting historical read. Some ambiguous elements of witchcraft.

Classic, Family, Historical