Stories about children are not always for children. In The Watercress Girl, H. E. Bates masterfully depicts a childhood which, by proxy, reveals the mystifying world of the adult. Through a series of short, lyrical stories, the complexities of the world are seen with crystalline purity through the eyes of children. We experience the joyous and painful clarity of youth, full of fears, hopes and make-believe, and the trust and mistrust of the adult world.
A little boy, charmed by the golden-throated Miss Mortenson, witnesses her fall from grace in 'The Pemberton Thrush'. Three children become entangled in a forbidden love when they witness a man attempting suicide in 'A Great Day for Bonzo', and a father reveals more of his past than he intends to in 'The Far Distant Journey'.
First published in 1959, The Watercress Girl is a rich collection of stories, exploring a world full of wonder but also of unease; an unease of not yet understanding the world or being fully part of it.
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About the Author
H. E. Bates was born in 1905 in the shoe-making town of Rushden, Northamptonshire, and educated at Kettering Grammar School. After leaving school, he worked as a reporter and as a clerk in a leather warehouse.
Many of his stories depict life in the rural Midlands, particularly his native Northamptonshire, where he spent many hours wandering the countryside
His first novel, The Two Sisters (1926) was published by Jonathan Cape when he was just twenty. Many critically acclaimed novels and collections of short stories followed.
During WWII he was commissioned into the RAF solely to write short stories, which were published under the pseudonym “Flying Officer X”. His first financial success was Fair Stood the Wind for France (1944), followed by two novels about Burma, The Purple Plain (1947) and The Jacaranda Tree (1949) and one set in India, The Scarlet Sword (1950).
Other well-known novels include Love for Lydia (1952) and The Feast of July (1954). His most popular creation was the Larkin family which featured in five novels beginning with The Darling Buds of May in 1958. The later television adaptation was a huge success.
Many other stories were adapted for the screen, the most renowned being The Purple Plain (1947) starring Gregory Peck, and The Triple Echo (1970) with Glenda Jackson and Oliver Reed.
H. E. Bates married in 1931, had four children and lived most of his life in a converted granary near Charing in Kent. He was awarded the CBE in 1973, shortly before his death in 1974.