Sunday, October 13, 2013
Return to gone-away by Elizabeth Enright
Return to gone-away was first published in 1961. I did not read this book in my childhood but even though it has the traits I listed above - a slow meandering plot and complex vocabulary - this is a terrific book. I loved the pace, the children, the happiness of their elderly friends and all the complex words. Here is a description of the old houses :
"To the right lay the broad swamp, shorn by winter of its reeds; to the left stood the old houses in their neglected yards. They were a tatterdemalion lot, with shutters hanging from hinges, font steps skewed crooked, porches sagging."
Having enjoyed a summer adventure at Gone-away lake the family have now bought one of the old houses and over the next summer everyone works hard to make Villa Caprice a home. As they work together the children strengthen their friendships with their cousin and neighbours and the house itself reveals some wonderful treasures left by the eccentric and extremely wealthy Mrs Brace-Gideon.
This is a warm old fashioned story a little like reading Enid Blyton's famous Five or Secret Seven. Enright is brilliant at descriptions. You can see the scene. Here is a description of the bathroom :
"very large with two high-up diamond-shaped windows, a frieze of mildewed swans above the molding and many pictures on the wall of young ladies wearing pompadours, shirtwaists, and long skirts... The hand-basin made of Delft china, was patterned with blue carnations. Swan-necked faucets drooped above it, and on each side there was a broad slab of marble, veined and gray as Roquefort cheese."
Return to Gone-away is the second book featuring this intriguing setting of an old abandoned town and the lives of the Blake family. I have not read Gone-away lake (Newbery Honor 1958) but I think this second book easily stands alone. You should read more about the first book here especially after reading Return to Gone-away because this excellent and very detailed review will fill in the gaps for you. I am excited to also read that Jen Robinson (who is a prolific and famous blogger of children's books) also loves Return to Gone-away. This book might be one to read aloud as a family each evening.
Portia herself sums up this book when she says : "Sometimes a story can open a world for you: you step into it and forget the real one that you live in. Evidently this was such a story."
One final thing - I have put a three covers here because I think it is interesting to see how book designs change over time. Our copy is the one at the top.