the children of green knowe

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Books My Mother Gave Me: The Children of Green Knowe (L.M. Boston) Review

Published August 26, 2013 by ElisaChristy

This book is set around Christmas time, making it not the best thing to read during August, but there you go.

The book follows Toseland (Tolly) who is sent to live with his great grandmother at the house of Green Noah.

Due to the village being flooded, Tolly must row to the house, leaving him imagining he is on his way to the ark. There is a lot of religious symbolism in the book, such as a statue of Saint Christopher in the garden, but we are never shown them outside Tolly’s point of view, so they could be interpreted as his games of make believe. Or not. It is up to the reader to decide for themselves.

“It looked as if someone had been trying to draw her for a very long time and every line put in had made the face more like her.”

Tolly’s great grandmother is just as imaginative as he is, indulging him when he has imagined things and telling him stories about olden times.

Not much does happen in the book, it is mainly just Tolly’s life there and stories of the children who used to live there – the children of the title, who reside as ghosts now; although ‘ghosts’ is probably the wrong word for them. The children are not really displayed as ghosts as how can they be ghosts when it was their house once too? – the fact they are not seen as ghosts is the only reason I can think of for why I was not scared by this book as a child – the children are only ever portrayed as being there, in fact Tolly really wants to see them which takes some of the ‘ghostiness’ about them away.

” “Why do you live in a castle?” He said, looking round. “Why not? Castles were meant to live in.” “

While not a lot does happen in the book, the old stories Mrs Oldknow tells are important to the plot as she explains why the house is called Green Noah when it was once called Green Knowe. It involves a tree cursed by a gypsy after her son was sent to Australia for trying to steal a horse.

This makes the book unique as while the children (or ghosts) are not portrayed as frightening at any point; the cursed tree is. If anything the ghost children help Tolly when he wanders near the cursed tree during a storm.

“It was Tolly who sang alone, while, four hundred years ago, a baby went to sleep.”

The book allows you to make up your own mind whether you think it is all make believe or whether the castle really is full of ghosts. It is written well also. I distinctly remember hearing about Tolly being rowed to Green Noah for the first time, as the description of the floods and later on the snow is wonderful.

Although the central plot is covered in about five pages, it is a book you want to read, even if just to hear more about Tolly’s life there with the ghost children.

There were other books in this series, but this was the only one I ever had. When I was younger, I always assumed it was quite an old fashioned book, (it was published in 1954)and didn’t really ever read it myself after my mother stopped reading to me, but reading it again, I don’t think it should be set in the present or in any other time than it is and I’m quite tempted to try and find the others.