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Thursday's Child

Thursday's Child was first published in 1970, with a US edition the same year. It is now out of print, although the recent (1999) Collins paperback may still be available in shops.


Story | Background | Thoughts | Editions and Availability | Other Media

Story

Thursday's Child is set at the beginning of the 20th century. As a baby, Margaret Thursday was found on the church steps one Thursday morning, with a note "This is Margaret whom I entrust to your care. Each year fifty-two pounds will be sent for her keep and schooling. She has not yet been christened" (Thurdsay's Child, 1970:11). Margaret is looked after by two old ladies and their servant, Hannah, and every year fifty-two golden sovereigns are left in the church some time between Christmas and New Year.

The year Margaret is ten, no money is left: instead there is a note saying "NO MORE MONEY FOR MARGARET". On the recommendation of the archdeacon, Margaret is sent to St Luke's Orphanage. Travelling to the orphanage, Margaret meets Lavinia, Peter and Horatio Beresford. Peter and Horatio are also going to the orphanage; Lavinia, aged 14, is going into service as a scullery maid.

The orphanage is poor, and the children are underfed, and treated badly by the sadistic Matron who is in charge. Margaret wants to run away, but Lavinia asks her to look after Peter and Horatio so she agrees to stay. From the beginning, Matron dislikes Margaret and feels that "she must be humbled" (p 30), but Margaret's spirit cannot be crushed.

Connections to Other Books

Thursday's Child has a direct sequel - Far to Go.

Background

In the late 1940s, Noel met a woman called Margot Grey, who was to become one of her closest friends. Margot did not know her own parents: she had been brought up in a large country house, by two godmothers and a nanny, using a trust fund that had been arranged for her. Margot ran away from five different schools before finding one she was happy at. Unfortunately, when she was fourteen she learned that the godmothers had not managed her money well, and there was no longer enough to pay for school fees. Margot was given the opportunity to stay at the school as a pupil-teacher, but refused. Instead, she went to France, learned the hotel trade, and was ultimately very successful.

Margot died in the late 1960s, either just before or during the writing of Thursday's Child. In her article "How I Met Margaret Thursday", Noel tells the story of Margot's life (giving her the pseudonym "Margaret"), and finishes by saying:

'What an interesting child she must have been,' I thought, 'to be so proudly independent almost from the day she was born.' ... Then one day, when I was thinking about a new book, I decided to use Margaret. Not, of course, with the real Margaret's story, but using as the central figure the sort of child I was sure the real Margaret had been. I called my Margaret, Margaret Thursday and the book Thursday's Child because, following the old rhyme, she had far to go (in The Noel Streatfeild Easter Holiday Book, 1974:142)

Thoughts

(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have not read the book.)

Thursday's Child is the first of Noel's children's books to have an historical setting. In contrast to the consciously contemporary references of its immediate predecessors, the Gemma books, Thursday's Child is full of "numerous small memories from Noel's own childhood" (Bull, 1984:236).

Angela Bull feels that Thursday's Child is "not so much a work of imagination as of fertile invention", and as a result the "leisurely control of the earlier books has given way to an anxious sense that on no account must the action be allowed to slow down" (1984:237). Certainly, the book is eventful - even melodramatic - with its wicked Matron, the escape from the orphanage, the canal boat and finally the theatre, not to mention the Beresfords turning out to be grandchildren of an Earl.

In spite of its rather hectic pace, Thursday's Child manages to provide fascinating pictures of a variety of different settings - not only the rather stereotypical orphanage, but also the village school, the great house, the canal, the theatre. However, these may be of more interest to the adult reader than to the child. By being consciously placed in a historical setting, Thursday's Child lacks the timelessness of some of Noel's contemporary works, such as Ballet Shoes.

For all the interesting aspects of the setting, the book is ultimately carried by the indomitable character of Margaret herself. With echoes of Nicky Heath, Miss Virginia Bell, and others, as well as the real-life Margot Grey, Margaret is not always likeable, but she is certainly a strong personality. Unlike Noel's earlier characters, Margaret is not part of a secure family unit. Although the book is full of people who love her, and would look after her, Margaret ultimately chooses to stand on her own.

Editions and Availability

UK Editions

Thursday's Child was first published in 1970 by Collins, with Peggy Fortnum illustrations. It was reprinted several times between 1971 and 1975, and was also included in their 1995 Noel Streatfeild Omnibus (together with Ballet Shoes for Anna and White Boots .)

An Armada Lion paperback edition was released in 1972, and reprinted multiple times throughout the 1970's and early 1980s (later editions being Fontana Lions). The Peggy Fortnum illustrations were retained, but at least some post-1973 editions had a photograph from the television serial on the cover.

In 1995, F A Thorpe Publishers released a large print hardcover edition (Ulverscroft Large Print Series).

The most recent release seems to have been a Collins Paperback edition, in 1999.

US Editions

It was released in the United States in 1970, by Random House. This edition was reprinted at least once, and a Random House Children's Books paperback was released in 1985.

A Dell paperback edition was released in 1970, and reprinted in 1986.

As I have not read the US editions, I do not know if the text was in any way amended.

Out of Print

The 1999 Collins Paperback edition of Thursday's Child may still be available in shops. However, it is no longer listed on the HarperCollins website, and can therefore be assumed to be out of print.

In February 2004, second hand copies through online booksellers start in price at 1.50. (Source: Addall Used and Out of Print Book Search.)

Other Media

In 1973, the BBC produced a six-episode serial of Thursday's Child, dramatised by John Tully and produced and directed by Dorothea Brooking.

In 1995, a cassette audiobook, narrated by Geraldine James, was released by HarperCollins. However, this no longer appears to be available.

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Images reproduced by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
© 1970 Noel Streatfeild

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