• William Stark

The River at Green Knowe by Lucy Boston: Imagination and magic meet realism

Third book in the Green Knowe Chronicles series


Overall rating: 8/10


Plot: 7/10

Quality of writing: 10/10

Characters: 8/10

Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): practically none

Difficulty: 4/10

Age level: 8 and up


Summary

In this imaginative book by Lucy Boston, the third in the Green Knowe Chronicles series, three children explore Green Knowe’s river in a series of adventures that blur the lines between reality and imagination. Introducing many new characters to the series (including a giant, a hermit, an archaeologist, and two children displaced by political unrest), The River at Green Knowe tells an enjoyable and engaging story without a trace of racism (one of the displaced children is Chinese), violence, or innuendo. With its plethora of descriptive language, The River at Green Knowe is definitely worth a read.


Plot

The storyline of The River at Green Knowe is divided into chapters that seem almost episodic; despite this, each chapter’s adventure is engaging and well thought-out, and the overall effect is cohesive. However, the lack of closure at the end of the book leaves many readers hanging, especially younger readers who want to know “what happens next.” With this in mind, it is important to remember that most of Boston’s books emphasize the unique background and atmosphere to the events, not the plot itself. Overall, therefore, the plot of The River at Green Knowe is nothing especially amazing, but readers should remember that the plot is not necessarily the most important part of the book. (7/10)


Characters

The River at Green Knowe introduces the reader to three entirely new protagonists: Oskar, Ida, and Ping (ages 11, 11, and 9, respectively). Oskar and Ping are children who have been displaced by civil unrest in their countries, while Ida is the niece of Dr. Maud Biggin, who has rented Green Knowe for the summer. Over the course of the book, we see camaraderie and friendship develop between Oskar, Ida, and Ping as they adventure up and down the river. What makes this especially nice for the reader is that Boston entirely avoids the uncalled-for sexualization of so many characters in modern fiction. Despite all these positive attributes of the characters, however, the characters of The River at Green Knowe are somewhat less well-developed than some of Boston’s other characters. The characters therefore merit an 8/10 overall.


Difficulty

With fewer flashbacks and side stories than the previous two books, The River at Green Knowe is not too difficult of a read. Boston’s descriptive style could potentially confuse some younger readers, but on the whole, this book is fairly easy.


Quality of writing

Boston continues in the same vein as the previous two books by incorporating rich descriptive language through similes, onomatopoeia, and careful attention to detail. The environment (especially the river) is constantly present in a multitude of evocative descriptions: “a fishing rod playing out; zizz, buzz, trill, crick, whizz, plot, flutter, splash; and all the time whisper, whisper, whisper, lap, chuckle, and sigh.” These descriptions form part of a whole, unique atmosphere that permeates the book and enhances the story (this technique is one of Boston’s hallmarks). Overall, the writing in The River at Green Knowe is well-crafted and enjoyable and merits a 10/10.


Concerning content

One of the best things about this book is that it hardly touches on any topic that might be considered age-inappropriate. There is zero violence, language, or sexualization of any kind: a refreshing read in a world of books that seem to add these things haphazardly.


Age level

This book is a fairly easy read, and as mentioned before, has no violence, etc., making it suitable for any age level capable of reading it. However, readers from age 8 and up may enjoy it more, and it is therefore recommended for that age group.

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