The lark in the morn

by Elfrida Vipont

Paper Book, 1973

Status

Available

Call number

J A VIP 1973

Publication

London : Oxford University Press, 1973.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Jane Kitson Haverard, known to all and sundry as Kit, struggles to find her place in her family and her calling in life in this outstanding coming-of-age novel from English author Elfrida Vipont. The first of five children's books chronicling the saga of an extended Quaker family - the second, The Lark on the Wing, was Britain's Carnegie Medal winner in 1950 - The Lark in the Morn is part family story and part school story, opening in the village of Thornley, where Kit, whose three older brothers are all away at school, lives with her widowed professor father, and her managing cousin Laura, who has taken care of the family since the death of Mrs. Haverard many years before. Hemmed in by Laura's solid lack of understanding - her awkward groping towards meaning, in the Quaker Meeting, is condemned as "mocking the sacred," while her profound connection to music goes entirely unnoticed, because she cannot sing and play in the same style as some of her peers - Kit lives in a world of make-believe, engaging in imaginary games with her friends Pony and Helen. When an unexpected illness, in the form of a weak heart, necessitates a rest, she is sent to stay with her maternal great-aunts at Manningleigh, where she becomes acquainted with her mother's family for the first time. She also comes to a very different understanding of what music can be, a process that continues when she goes away to Heryot, the great Quaker boarding school for girls...

I found The Lark in the Morn, which was first published in the UK in 1948 - the American edition I read was released by Holt, Rinehart and Winston in 1970, although Bobbs-Merrill was the first American publisher to pick it up, in 1951 - to be an immensely engaging book, by turns entertaining and poignant. Kit is an appealing heroine, so terribly awkward (and so realistically resentful) at the start, and her gradual maturation, as she learns to look beyond appearances, and to judge matters for herself, is captured by Vipont with extraordinary sensitivity. I appreciated the fact that even the less appealing characters are seen to have redeeming qualities: Laura, despite her often clueless bossiness, and her obnoxious desire to monopolize Professor Haverard, is concerned for Kit's welfare, and terribly worried when she becomes ill; while Pony, although sometimes insensitive, and a little too determined to be the leader, and shine before all others, shows remorse for her momentary betrayal of her friend, and, through her actions in arranging the final concert, gives Kit a chance to shine. I was fascinated and moved, as I often am, by the depiction of Quaker beliefs here, and found the idea of waiting - waiting for the inner light, for that spark of the divine, for what Kit comes to call "the real me," to come to fruition - incredibly powerful. The discussion of changing mores, within the Quaker community - the fact that Great-Aunt Henrietta's life was ruined, because she couldn't pursue music, for instance - was quite interesting as well.

I do wish that the section devoted to Heryot had been a little more detailed - I felt the first portion of the book, centered around Kit's home life, was a little bit richer, probably because the time period being depicted was much shorter; while the second, in which she attends school, sometimes had an "outline" quality to it, probably because it frequently skipped entire years in one sentence. That said, I enjoyed the school story aspects that did appear, particularly Kit's friendship with the Chauntesingers, and her growing understanding of the differences between substance and style, as revealed in the characters of the two music teachers, Miss Fishwick and Miss Tattersall. Her evolving attitude toward music and singing, and the parallels that Vipont draws, between this development and her grasping for meaning in her Quaker beliefs, was also quite illuminating - in both, there is a sense of a search for truth, for authenticity, and above all, for self. As is made plain in a poignant discussion with Great-Aunt Maria, in which the necessity of breaking free, in order to truly come home is raised, Kit herself is the lark of which she sings, in the old Somersetshire folksong that gives this title its name. She must find a way to rise up in the morn, before she can truly return to the nest...
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Original publication date

1948

ISBN

0192720392 / 9780192720399

Local notes

Haverard family series v1

Call number

J A VIP 1973
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