Joan Lingard’s Books for Young People

We are often reminded of the difficulties new writers face, trying to break into the market. But spare a thought for those writers whose work is now so much part of the literary establishment that they tend to be ignored, simply because their output is so reliably good. Philippa Pearce, Bernard Ashley, Susan Price, Jean Ure, Ad

èle Geras – these are first class writers, publishing regularly, yet rarely reviewed.

Joan Lingard could probably be added to that list, not that she is so much ignored as taken for granted. Still actively engaging with her readership during school visits and at literary festivals, she takes an obvious delight in the connection her writing makes with young minds, imaginations and concerns. An award-winning writer for both adults and children, she revolutionised the notion of young teenagers as readers when she wrote the politically-aware Kevin and Sadie novels in the 1970s. Still widely read in schools, The Twelfth Day of July is a book many of us remember as a landmark in our development as readers. Its depiction of life in Northern Ireland is as relevant now as it was on publication in 1970. Dark Shadows, published in 1996, revisited Belfast, throwing a very clear light on the banalities and bigotry underlying violent and lasting family rifts.

Much of Joan Lingard’s writing conveys the turmoil of adolescence. She captures the truculence that masks deep emotions, the frustrations arising from the combined fear and excitement of that transitional time. More recently Lizzie’s Leaving and A Secret Place demonstrate that consummate skill and sensitivity, without ever compromising the plot. Natasha’s Will brings together Lingard’s love of the Scottish Highlands with a fascination for the history of Eastern Europe and Russia. While Night Fires and Between Two Worlds examined the plight of Latvian refugees, this novel explores the impact of the Russian revolution, and in particular the eponymous Natasha who is forced to flee the country following the arrest of her uncle. Historical narrative is interwoven with the contemporary story of Sonya and her family with whom the elderly Natasha has lived in Scotland. Following her death, the family find themselves threatened with eviction, unable to find the will in which they are convinced the old lady will have left them her house. Lingard has constructed an intricate and compelling narrative structure, incorporating an intriguing literary quiz as part of the mystery. All human life is here, but at the heart of the story she celebrates the power of youth, a theme to which she returns with every book she writes.

Joan Lingard continues to make an impact as a writer and as a ‘reader-maker’. Hodder Children’s Books are reissuing several of her classic novels – including The File on Fraulein Berg. They also publish several of her books for younger readers, many set in Scotland.

Copyright Lindsey Fraser 2005.


One Comment on "Joan Lingard’s Books for Young People"

  1. Inma Marin on Tue, 28th Apr 2009 12:39 am 

    I do enjoy Joan Lingard’s books, especially Kevin and Sadie’s novels. Have any of them been translated into Spanish?

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