Childhood Eternal

I’ve been reading through Elizabeth Enright’s books lately – just finished the Melendy quartet, and am waiting for my paperback editions of Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away (I stole borrowed my mother’s old, old hardcover editions when I moved away from home, but they are so old that they’re starting to crumble, so I decided to pick up some cheaper paperbacks to read without having to wear white gloves) to get here on Monday so I can go through those, as well. Then there’s Thimble Summer to be read somewhere in there as well.

Then There Were Five

So, with this being my book diet lately, you can imagine my delight yesterday, when the kids and I were out enjoying the sunshine down by the pond, to see three little boys half-hidden in the bracken and murk on the other side. It looked like they were building either a fort or a raft, chattering away as they did so, busy as beavers and happy as could be. I couldn’t have conjured up a scene more perfectly reminiscent of Enright’s worlds if I’d tried.

The Saturdays

I’ve read some reviews that accuse her books of being too sweet, too saccharine, too unrealistic in their portrayal of children and the world. Nonsense, I say! Simple and wholesome, yes, but not impossible. Her children aren’t “little dears” who are sugary sweet and live in a ridiculously perfect world. In fact, they remind me a lot of myself as a kid – imperfect people, living in an imperfect world, but filled with the joy of just being alive, and being a kid.

Gone-Away Lake, illustrated by Beth & Joe Krush

So I was extra glad yesterday, on a day of glorious, perfect spring, a day that made me want to sing along with all the birds and turn cartwheels if I knew how, to see that childhood, to a certain extent, remains the same throughout all generations.

Thimble Summer

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3 thoughts on “Childhood Eternal

  1. Hmm, yet another classic English author (English-language, I mean, not nationality) I haven’t read but probably would enjoy. Glad to see I won’t run out of good books to read anytime soon.
    [Rant alert:] As far as books being “too sweet”, hrrumph! People who say that sort of thing just don’t get it. They think that a story (book or movie) isn’t “deep” and “important” and “realistic” unless there’s heart-wrenching pain, terrifying danger and preferrably some blood & guts involved. Balderdash, I say! Bring on the simple, the wholesome, and the subtle. And, of course, the happily-ever-after, or at least the happily-for-the-rest-of-that-summer. [End of rant.]

    • I am certain you would thoroughly appreciate Enright. Thimble Summer is probably her best-known book (winner of the Newbury Medal), but I love them all. The Gone-Away books remind me the most of my childhood, being about cousins exploring and having unexpected adventures and great fun, and the Melendy Quartet, especially The Four-Story Mistake, are just sheer delight.

      As for the realism problems … whenever I start to feel sheepish about my fondness for simple, happy books like the Anne books, or the Betsy-Tacy series, or Miss Read’s books, I remind myself of Mr Carpenter’s advice to Emily in Emily’s Quest – “Don’t be led away by those howls about realism. Remember – pine woods are just as real as pigsties and a darn sight pleasanter to be in.”

      I’d much rather read – and write! – about pine woods, myself.

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