The Children of Green Knowe and The River at Green Knowe – Lucy M Boston

Another dip into nostalgia and another 99p Amazon bargain.

I remembered reading these books at school, probably early Junior School…or at least I thought I did!

I read the first book on holiday, sitting on a beach on a perfect summer’s day. Perhaps the setting helped to create the right atmosphere to delve back into childhood for a short while and I absolutely loved this book.

The book centres on Toseland Gunning and the great-grandmother he has just met. The child is lonely; his father has remarried and gone to work in Burma, Tolly is at boarding school and for the Christmas holidays he is going to stay with his late mother’s grandmother at the ancient family house called Green Knowe.

Whilst there Tolly learns about his mother’s family and all the family traditions. He explores the house and grounds and gets to know the family ghosts, giving him roots and a way to find his place in the world.

I found it a lovely, heart-warming story and one that was vaguely familiar but not quite what I was expecting.

There was one scary bit about Green Noah and the gypsy curse. I imagine that’s why I didn’t fully remember the story from childhood. I expect that bit gave me nightmares and I shut the memories away.

I was expecting the second book to be a continuation of Tolly’s adventures. Instead, disappointingly, Mrs Oldknowe has let the house out to a professor who wants peace and quiet to write a book. Dr Maud Biggin and her companion, Sybilla Bun, take Maud’s niece Ida and two displaced children, Ping and Oskar, with them to Green Knowe.

This book is about Ida, Oskar and Ping’s adventures on the flooded river and fens around Green Knowe. I didn’t find these children or their adventures as interesting as Tolly’s. This might be because I really wanted to know what happened next to Tolly. It might be that having indulged in one retreat to childhood I’d had my fix. It might just be that this book isn’t as engaging as the first one. Whatever the reason, I just didn’t take to it.

It also annoyed me that Ping was known as Ping because no one could pronounce his real name Hsu. Which might have been acceptable when the book was written but which seems colonialist wrong and plain rude in the 21st century.

The experience of the second book has put me off reading any of the others in the series, although I might look out for the ones that also feature Tolly and give them another go.

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