New Town, a direct sequel to The
Bell Family, was first published in 1960. The US edition
(also 1960) was entitled New Shoes. It is now out of print.
Story | Connections
to Other Books | Background
| Thoughts | Editions
and Availability | Other
Alex Bell, of The Bell Family,
is offered a new parish on the edge of London, Crestal New Town.
It had once been a village, but a large number of flats - the
"new town" - have recently been built, and it is clear
that the clergyman will have a lot of work to do.
For the first half of the book, the family is still at St Marks
Vicarage, and this section is a combination of preparing for the
move - Ginnie's scheme to ensure she can stay at her school, Mrs
Gage deciding to come with them, the farewell party and concert
- as well as everyday events, the most notable of which is Ginnie
accidentally letting one of Angus' goldfish be eaten by a cat.
When the family arrive at Crestal New Town, they find it to be
a disheartening environment - the village is alright, but the
new town has been poorly planned, and there is no community spirit.
When Ginnie tells the Bishop that they hate it, he explains that
he wants them to help make it a place in which people are proud
Connections to Other
New Town/New Shoes is a direct sequel to The
Bell Family/Family Shoes.
Aside from this, New Town/New Shoes has no connections
to the other "shoes" books.
However, the Bells do appear in the short story, "The Bells
Keep Twelfth Night", which appears to be set between The
Bell Family and New Town.
The Bell Family had
been a successful Children's Hour serial, broadcast every year
from 1949 to 1953, before appearing in written form in 1954. In
1955 the program was revived in a new setting, and it was this
that led to the publication of New Town.
(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have
not read the book.)
Nancy Huse (1994) describes
New Town as an "outstanding" novel, in which
the Bell family "transform the alienated, uprooted parishioners
into a vibrant community with room for all classes, ages, and
regional or ethnic identities" (1994:111).
However, this "transformation" takes up less than four
of the eighteen chapters of the book, and much of the rest seems
something of a rehash of The
Bell Family. In the first book, Ginnie rashly commits
the family to doing something, without consulting them first.
In New Town, this happens again - not once, but twice!
Furthermore, New Town seems, occasionally, to undercut
some of the events in The Bell
Family. For example, in the final chapter of The
Bell Family, Ginnie discovers that she has a talent for
swimming and decides she is going to be a champion. This is described
as "one of the most exciting things about the holiday in
Hythe" (The Bell Family,
1954:247), and yet in New Town it is mentioned only
occasionally, in passing.
Even more surprising is the change in Angus. Although the rest
of the family believe that he will lose interest in dancing, the
authorial implication in The
Bell Family is that this will not be the case. Although
he is totally unskilled, we do get the sense that he is speaking
the truth when he says "I always knew I didn't want to sing,
but I like the noise music makes. To-night the first moment the
ballet music started my feet knew what they wanted to do"
(The Bell Family, 1954:
102). This is stated even more clearly in the earlier version,
published in Collins Magazine, where Angus' headmaster
tells Alex that Angus is "a very musical boy, but [the headmaster]
and the other masters had been thinking for some time that they
were barking up the wrong tree in turning him into a choir boy.
They had noticed that he was a good mover; it was quite possible
that he ought to be a dancer" (Collins Magazine Annual,
1952:135). In spite of this, however, in New Town Angus
has begun to lose interest: "If you want to know I wasn't
liking dancing any more" (New Town, 1960:93) . This
feels like a betrayal of what we were lead to believe in The
Editions and Availability
New Town was first published by Collins in 1960, with
illustrations by Shirley Hughes.
In 1976 it was reissued by White Lion Publishers.
In the same year as its UK release (1960), New Town
was released in the United States by Random House, as New
In 1985 there was a Dell Bantam Books "Yearling" paperback
As I have not read the US editions, I do not know if the text
was in any way amended.
Out of Print
New Town/New Shoes is out of print. In February 2004, second hand copies through online booksellers start in price
at £15, with New Shoes being rather more readily available
than New Town. (Source: Addall
Used and Out of Print Book Search.)
New Town originated with the Children's
Hour radio programme, The Bell