PBOTD 23rd November: Mary Treadgold - Return to the Heron

Return to the Heron (1963) is the sequel to The Heron Ride (1962). Sandra and Adam's diplomat parents have been killed, and they have to live with an uncle and his family; none of whom want them, or even particularly like them. Mary Treadgold captures the bleak and soul-shrivelling effect living in that household has on them, particularly Sandra who unlike her brother, does not go away to school. In The Heron Ride, Adam and Sandra have a charmed summer staying with Miss Vaughan, who understands and likes them, but they still have to go back to their grim existence when the summer ends. There is no easy way out; no fairytale removal from a horrible situation; Sandra simply learns enough to make it a little more bearable. 

Return to the Heron breaks both Sandra and Adam out of their prison, but the book is not just about that; it is about the love of beauty, loneliness, possession,  and generosity. At the end of the book, when Adam and Sandra are going to live with their other trustee, it is Adam, difficult and closed off from Sandra at the beginning of the novel after a terrible accident, who genuinely rejoices for her when she is to be bought a horse. 
“And lastly, Grant Maynard’s voice, rising above them all: ‘Long ago, way back, I gave Sandra a Castle in Spain. And it got left behind, when things went wrong for her and Adam. Now things are coming right. Everybody needs a Castle in Spain. Mighty few get it. Sandra’s going to get this one. I’m going to buy her that horse.’
To Sandra, Grant Maynard’s voice seemed to carry right over the shadowed garden, right over Betsy’s field. It seemed to carry right up to the sleeping Downs, where she would again ride Grey Horse. And, as she came down the terrace, speechless because of what she had heard, hardly yet believing, it was Adam’s voice that said: ‘Thank you. Oh, thank you.”
Adam loves the great grand house, The Heron, despite the decaying white elephant it has become. For Adam, the house symbolises the end of the bleak, constricted life he and Sandra lead with their uncle; the start of their independent life. It is a symbol of peace, of journeys done and strife ended; new beginnings for Sandra and Adam. Its beauty can be preserved, but not in the same way as before. The social order has changed. The Barrows, once servants, are now friends. It is also about learning to share: Adam cannot cling to his vision of a Heron that belongs to just him and Sandra, although it is this that has got him through his terrible time in the hospital. The Dene family, who once owned The Heron, will be part of its future too.


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