Book Review: The Children of Green Knowe
By L.M. Boston
A small boy, called ‘Tolly’ for short, comes to stay with his great-grandmother in an old house which, when he reaches it, is swimming in the winter floods like an ark. He lands at the door from a boat and, as soon as he steps over the threshold to meet the great-grandmother he has never seen, delightful mysteries begin to happen.
Is Tolly, perhaps, not alone in the house with his great-grandmother? Over the great fireplace hangs a picture of three children who grew up at Green Knowe in the seventeenth century. His great-grandmother tells Tolly stories about them: of Toby and his pony Feste – of Linnet – of Alexander and his flute. He finds their playthings hidden here and there: thinks he sees them, hears them, outside his window, playing in the garden.
Adult Point of View
Here is a more modern cover, though I prefer the old cover.
The Children of Green Knowe is a delightful gothic tale full of benevolent, though mischievous, ghosts and a malignant menace in the garden that has haunted the family for generations. This is a book for people who love literature and the written word. The Children of Green Knowe was originally published in 1954. Literature is invaluable to help us see the world differently. It saddens me to see that old books aren’t read anymore. The haunted, dreamlike feeling in this book reminds me a bit of the mystery I felt reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, a recently written novel for adults.
From the opening paragraph:
He was not the only person in the carriage, but the others were strangers to him. He was alone as usual. There were two women opposite him, a fat one and a thin one, and they talked without stopping, smacking their lips in between sentences and seeming to enjoy what they said as much as if it were something to eat. They were knitting all the time, and whenever the train stopped the click-clack of their needles was loud and clear like two clocks.
The book is full of descriptions and lush imagery. It is not full of action, there is no brutality, but rather mystery and wonder. Reading about Green Knowe took me back to my childhood of playing in a narrow strip of scrub oak trees that we had named The Jungle. It was a secret place. It was a place of magic. I wonder if young children today know how to have secrets and magic in their own backyards. I’m afraid that skill has been lost. I don’t even know if children would like this book anymore because of the slow rhythm, but I still highly recommend it for adults.