Saturday, 27 June 2009

The Children of Green Knowe

I have embraced my inner child again this weekend, despite the disappointment of revisiting What Katy Did, by picking up a copy of The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston, following an absence of at the very least fifteen years. Like the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, The Worst Witch, and The Borrowers, what makes The Children of Green Knowe so vivid in my recalled imagination is the powerful adaptation for television that was made in by the BBC in 1986 (I believe that I must have watched a repeat viewing of it as in 1986 I was only five years old). It was a cherished and beloved book of mine and the revisit reminded me how good a children's novel it is.

A ghost story for children, the novel revolves around Toseland (Tolly) Oldknow who goes to live with his great-Grandmother in the ancestral family home, Green Knowe, that has been known as Green Noah for centuries. Tolly and his Grandmother see ghosts of their ancestors, primarily three siblings -an earlier Toseland (Toby), Andrew, and Linette- who lived during the reign of Charles II and died in the Great Plague. There was a curse placed upon a large (green) topiary of Noah in the garden by a witch, the resulting tree demon affecting the Oldknow males and the topiary is left to become overgrown ever since, and another supernatural element in the protective stone St Christopher who becomes animated.

The novel is supernaturally evocative; the reader is caught up in the magic and its charm was not lost on me as an adult. The more ominous, frightening, tension was less effective now but that is only to be expected. The writing is beautifully depictive, the descriptions poetic, and I found this line wonderfully expressive:

He heard no thunder. It was even unnaturally quiet. Perhaps it only seemed unnatural because he himself was brimming with excitement. He heard the weir pounding at the end of the garden. It only made the quietness quieter. It was rather like a heart that is only heard when it beats too loud.

Another favourite passage, a poignant one:

He must have known of course that the children could not have lived so many centuries without growing old, but he had never thought about it. To him they were so real, so near, they were his own family that he needed more than anything on earth. He felt the world had come to an end.

I remember the book being longer as a child! Although Puffin classics probably were shorter and thicker.


Nymeth said...

That is a beautiful passage. This is yet another children's classic I missed out on growing up...I'll have to remedy that.

Paperback Reader said...

You really should! There are so many wonderful children's classics.