Books My Mother Gave Me: Charlotte Sometimes (Penelope Farmer) Review

Published September 16, 2013 by julietstubborn

I could never remember the first time I was read this book. I can remember reading it myself frequently, but I am sure I never would have done if it had not been read to me first, as it is not the sort of book I usually think I like – girls in Enid Blytonesque boarding schools were never my favourite.

My favourite song by The Cure is also Charlotte Sometimes which is based on this book, if you read the book and then listen to the song, you can hear the quotes they have taken directly from the book.

The story follows Charlotte as she starts her new school, but on waking up after her first night there, she finds the school looking different, everyone calling her Clare and talking about the  first world war. The next day, it’s back to normal and being called Charlotte again – as this keeps happening on alternate days, she really is Charlotte Sometimes.

“What would happen if people did not recognize you? Would you know who you were yourself? If tomorrow they started to call her Vanessa or Janet or Elizabeth, Would she know how to feel like Charlotte? Were you some particular person only because people recognized you as that?”

The style of writing in the book is very detailed, but none of it seems out of place. At first, as you are seeing it from Charlotte’s point of view, you doubt the situation as much as she does, as you know it was her first night at school, so it’s perfectly possible she did not know people’s names or what the buildings looked like as with everything that happens at a new school, it;s possible she didn’t pay much attention to the colour of the walls. You realise what is happening as she does, slowly, in installments, and this makes it believable.

“As she grew older, she seemed to be afraid of more things not less.”

When I was younger, and reading it again now, I was always slightly disappointed that you never saw things from Clare’s point of view especially with the descriptive writing style as describing the future in that style would have been interesting to read.

“How could you dare to become a soldier, knowing that you might end like this?”

You never know the precise reason, Charlotte and Clare are swapping places. It seems to be an amalgamation of things really, and all of them need to be occurring for the chance to occur.

The book is one you carry on thinking about long after you’ve finished reading. It leaves you in a slight daze for a while, that you come out of slowly, noticing details, as in the book, as you go – it’s a good feeling though and the writing style really makes the book stand up to repeated readings.

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