* 1/2 The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer

There are many interesting themes in The Children’s Crusade, starting with the frustrated artist who is expected to be the perfect 50s wife and mother but really longs to find time for her art. And there are wonderful sub stories, the one I liked best being that of the youngest child, who is a handful and also an unexpected fourth sibling, born when his parents were least able to provide the extra care he would need to contain his exuberance.

Still, I felt that the story read like a disjointed  attempt at a disguised family autobiography. The characters seem forced, having been assigned stereotypical roles.  Studious historical motifs are thrown in here and there that don’t bring much to the story. Exquisite details are provided on items that seem fairly irrelevant, such as the way the father organizes his will. The story never engulfed me as it should.


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