Friday, July 14, 2006

Green Knowe

The Green Knowe series by Lucy Boston is another bit of classic children's literature. I read the first two books in the series about seven years ago when I was working on my Master's thesis. I was examining the symbolism of patchwork quilts in literature for children and young adults, and came across a reference to the second book, Treasure at Green Knowe, in which a quilt plays a part. I read the first to books so as to discuss them in my thesis, and I was enchanted.
They are both the story of Tolly, a lonely boy who begins to spend his vacations with his great-grandmother Oldknow at her home, Green Knowe. An ancient estate, Green Knowe is filled with stories, and Grandma Oldknow begins to share them with Tolly. Or are they just stories? For strange things happen at Green Knowe, and in a place so ancient, the past never seems too far away.
The beauty of these books is the blurred line between reality and imagination. Are the things Tolly sees and experiences real - and does Grandma see them too? - or is she just pretending with Tolly, encouraging his imagination? Boston never really says, so the reader can decide himself.
I've yet to read the remainder of the series. I had to stop after the first two when I was working on my thesis (too many other things to read, and all that writing!). I've been vowing for years to get back to them, but now I'm stalled again waiting for the third and fifth books through interlibrary loan. I may decide just to purchase the whole series - it really is that charming - and it has been re-issued in a beautiful new edition.
Lucy Boston actually based her stories on some of her own life - Green Knowe, the real star of the series, was inspired by her own home, a historic manor she restored throughout her life. She loved it so much she used it in most of her stories, even those not in the Green Knowe series. For great summaries of the Green Knowe books as well as some essays and additional info on Lucy Boston, check out this site.

The Green Knowe Series
The Children of Green Knowe
The Treasure of Green Knowe (published in England as The Chimneys of Green Knowe)
The River at Green Knowe
A Stranger at Green Knowe
An Enemy at Green Knowe
The Stones of Green Knowe

What I'm Reading: 1846 (I think)
On My Bookshelf: The Peabody Sisters; E. Nesbit


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