• William Stark

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston: Magical British fantasy

First book in the Green Knowe Chronicles series


Overall rating: 9/10

Plot: 7.5/10

Quality of writing: 10/10

Characters: 9/10

Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): minimal

Difficulty: 4/10

Age level: 8 and up


Summary

This little-known British fantasy novel skillfully blends magic and history into a uniquely captivating tale of benevolent ghosts, intriguing mysteries, and an ancient curse haunting an old English manor home. Based on the author’s own home in Huntingdonshire, England, the fictional house “Green Knowe” serves not only as the backdrop to the action, but even behaves as a character in places; many details from the book were also inspired by objects from Boston’s home. Although some readers may be surprised by the relatively slow pace of the plot, the unique mood and atmosphere Boston creates makes this book worth reading and re-reading many times. This book is the first in the Green Knowe Chronicles series.


Plot

This book’s plot follows the adventures of Toseland (“Tolly”), a young boy who has been sent to stay with his grandmother in a twelfth-century British manor home. The storyline is unique in that it includes many flashbacks to the time of the house’s original occupants; these flashbacks are usually full of action, and contrast strongly with the main storyline, which is mainly concerned with Tolly exploring the house and surrounding garden. While this style of plot may be more difficult to follow than some others, it does give the reader a unique and memorable impression of the mood and atmosphere which Boston is creating in the story. Overall, the atmosphere is more important than the plot per se in this story: the plot deserves a 7.5/10 rating.


Characters

The story focuses on Tolly, a young boy, and his adventures in the house Green Knowe. Throughout the story, Tolly learns that Green Knowe is far stranger and more magical than he could have ever imagined: he befriends ghosts, travels back in time, and encounters topiary animals that come to life. Overall, Tolly’s development as a character is that of coming to accept the strange and new things he encounters at green Knowe. Another main character is Grandmother Oldknow, an intriguing mixture of mysterious storyteller and down-to-earth “Granny” (as Tolly calls her in the story). Finally, the eponymous “Children of Green Knowe” (the ghosts of the house’s original occupants) are both convincing historically and engaging as characters. The characters in the Children of Green Knowe are believable and unique, and fully merit a 9/10 rating.


Difficulty

This book is not a challenging read on the whole, but might be confusing for some because of the many frame stories and flashbacks. These essentially set up two different storylines (the modern times and the “olden times”) which intersect at different points. However, this will not pose a problem for most readers, giving this book a difficulty rating of 4/10.


Quality of writing

Lucy Boston’s style is beautiful and readable, while all the time adding to the unique atmosphere she is creating in the book. The sentences are engaging and filled with vivid descriptions of scenes, characters, and events. Overall, Boston’s style is not only enjoyable, descriptive, and readable; but it creates a unique “English” atmosphere that lends this book much of its charm. (10/10)


Concerning content

One of the best qualities of this book is that it has absolutely no language or violence. The only potential issues are a few people becoming intoxicated (even these are only mentioned in passing) and a scene where Tolly is chased by an evil, sentient tree (the tree is subsequently destroyed). Overall, The Children of Green Knowe is extremely wholesome and contains minimal mature content.


Age level

As mentioned before, this book is not too difficult of a read. Parents of younger readers should take into account that there is one scene that is somewhat “scary”, however, this should not pose a problem for most readers. This book is recommended for ages 8 and up.

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