"Most of my books are about what I called in the preface to Nancekuke
'real issues': the right of the individual to protest, the
difficulties of a young person learning to cope with a disability, the
effects of experimenting with drugs, the problems of old age, and the
mutual support that old and young can give to each other. But I am not interested only in 'problems,' and I hope that I have written without didacticism. I value the traditional functions of the novel, the
exploration of character and relationships, the evocation of place--
...Sugar Mouse, the second to be published, is perhaps the most
likely to strike a chord with young teenagers. The 12-year-old heroine
is a diabetic and her struggle to come to terms with her condition is
described with clinical realism alongside an interesting chain of
events featuring ponies, dogs, and boyfriends. Sarah's stubborn folly
and her violent quarrels with her family are at times hard to credit,
as is her sudden conversion to good sense in the closing pages.
Nevertheless, this is both an informative and a very readable story.
Nancekuke is decidedly more sophisticated, offering some quite complex characters and a selection of social and personal issues for the
reader to ponder. Attitudes towards military research and the
ramifications of investigative journalism are among the prominent
issues, and in each case Branfield strikes a pretty successful balance
between making a case and showing that there are pros and cons in most situations. The Fox in Winter concentrates largely on a single issue,
that of fair treatment for old people, and the author is more
concerned to highlight the scandal of callousness than to present a
balanced picture. This sort of approach is common enough in adult
novels, but one may doubt the wisdom of confronting teenagers with
such a harsh indictment when they lack the experience to put it in
context. Nevertheless, for those who can cope with sombre theme, and
some rather harrowing medical details, this novel has much to commend
it, especially the portrayal of Tom Treloar, the indomitable old
tyrant who eventually outwits his mercenary relatives.
Publications for ChildrenFiction
# Nancekuke. London, Gollancz, 1972 ; as The Poison Factory, New York,
Harper, 1972 .
# Sugar Mouse. London, Gollancz, 1973 ; as Why Me?, New York, Harper,
# The Scillies Trip. London, Gollancz, 1975 .
# Castle Minalto; or, the Entertainment of Dr. Trevail. London,
Gollancz, 1979 .
# The Fox in Winter. London, Gollancz, 1980 ; New York, Atheneum,
# Brown Cow. London, Gollancz, 1983 .
# Thin Ice. London, Gollancz, 1983 .
# The Falklands Summer. London, Gollancz, 1987 .
# The Day I Shot My Dad and Other Stories. London, Gollancz, 1989 .