Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Book Blog Train

Hello Friends! Welcome to the Christmas Book Blog Train.  If you came here from Abi's blog, that's great - she's the Train Driver and you are now in the First Carriage.  If you came from somewhere else, and want to work your way along the whole train, here's a list of participants, in order:

Train Driver - Abi

1) Lizzie - that's me, you are here now!
2) Mel
3) Jo
4) Amy
5) Kate
6) Sian

So, that's the Train.  We are each talking about a favourite Christmas Book.  This is mine:

The Children of Green Knowe, by Lucy M. Boston

This is officially a childrens' book, but I know quite a few adults who also love it.  I first read it when I was around 10 years old, followed by as many others in the series that the local library could supply. 

It's a magical book, about a boy called Toseland (Tolly) Oldknow, who is sent to spend his Christmas holidays with his great-grandmother, Mrs. Oldknow, in her ancient manor house in the Cambridgeshire Fens.
It starts with his train journey, then a drive in a taxi, in the darkness.  To his surprise, he is then met by a man in a boat, to which he is carried by the taxi driver.  The river has overflowed and the old house is surrounded by water, so he is ferried there by Mr Boggis, the family's old man-of-all-work. 
Tolly meets his Granny, and various other people - such as Boggis - whose families have been connected with the old house for generations. He learns that this is a very special house, with some very unusual inhabitants, including some who have lived there for three hundred years.

It's a sort-of adventure story, a sort-of ghost story and also about finding out about yourself, your history and your place in the world.  I loved this book right from the start, as it has a magical, mysterious quality.  The story-telling is clear and simple, yet the details are wonderful and real.
I will never forget the stories told by Granny - Toby and his horse Feste, Linnet and her illness, Alexander singing for the King and being rewarded with the flute that he so wants to own. Then there are the things that Toby finds out from the children and the scary bits, like the peacock crying, the gypsies and the evil Green Noah in the garden, which made my hair stand on end (and still does, the images are made so clear!).  The description of St. Christopher and the saving of Tolly was electric.
I loved the descriptions of Christmas festivities, past and present and the atmosphere created by the carols and tales told in the story.  I loved Mrs. Oldknow and wished I had a Granny like her too. 

I read this story to my son a couple of years ago.  He also loved it and we managed to get hold of a copy of the BBC TV series from 1986, of which I had fond memories. It is every bit as special as when I first watched it; just as the book never loses its value for me either.

I think this book will be part of my Christmas for the rest of my life.  I have a niece who also loves it, a great-niece who will soon be big enough to start knowing this book; I can hope for grandchildren to read it to.

It is a wonderful book and I would recommend it to anyone from around eight years old, to eighty-eight!

* * * Review

This is not an easy book, and therein lies its charm. L M Boston's classic is a sophisticated mood piece disguised as a children's ghost story. As young Toseland goes to live with his grandmother in the family's ancestral home, the reader is plunged immediately into the world of Green Knowe. Like Toseland, who actually rows up to his new home in the midst of a flood, we have a hard time finding our bearings. Toseland discovers a funny kind of grandmother awaiting him--one who speaks elliptically of the children and animals she keeps around the house: they might be memories, they might be ghosts. It's never quite clear where real life leaves off and magic begins. Toseland admires a deer: "A deer seems more magic than a horse." His grandmother is quick to respond: "Very beautiful fairy-tale magic, but a horse that thinks the same thoughts that you do is like strong magic wine, a love philtre for boys."

With this meshing of the magical and the real, Boston evokes a childlike world of wonder. She compounds the effect by combining gorgeous images and eerily evocative writing. Toseland goes out on a snowy morning: "In front of him, the world was an unbroken dazzling cloud of crystal stars, except for the moat, which looked like a strip of night that had somehow sinned and had no stars in it." The loosely plotted story is given more resonance still through liberal use of biblical imagery and Anglo-Saxon mythology. For those willing to suspend their disbelief and read carefully, the world of Green Knowe offers a wondrous escape. - -Claire Dederer
Product Description

"What if my great-grandmother is a witch?" thought Tolly. Tolly's great-grandmother wasn't a witch, but both she and her old house, Green Knowe, were full of a very special kind of magic. And Green Knowe turned out not to be the lonely place Tolly had imagined it to be. There were other children living in the house - children who had been happy there centuries before.

About the Author

Lucy Boston was born in 1892 at Southport, Lancashire, one of six children. She went to a Quaker school in Surrey, and was married at seventeen. She later moved to a beautiful manor house near Cambridge which provided the setting for her Green Knowestories. Boston started writing at the age of sixty and won the Carnegie Medal for A Stranger at Green Knowe in 1961.  
* * *
Thank you for reading my Review of my favourite Christmas book. 
Now follow the Train to see what favourite book Mel has chosen...


  1. Oh,'ve really made me smile with this suggestion. It's one of my all-time favourite books. I love it! In fact it's not that long since I read it again. Great choice. And thankyou for your fab long catchup comment..I loved reading it x

  2. i have never read this book although i've picked it up a few times at the library. now i might have to pick it up and whisk it off home
    jo xx

  3. Oh yes Jo! It's worth it... will give you that "feel-good" factor for Christmas!
    Did you see Keri-Anne's photo inspired by the book? She loves it too.

  4. never read this, but it looks really good! thanks so much for sharing, I will have to see if I can pick it up from the library and give it a read! xxx

  5. Have never read this...may now have to look out for it.

  6. They stock it in Waterstones, WHSmith etc, ladies, though probably in the children's dept.

    Abi, the school library may well keep a copy of this and perhaps others in the set.

    I love it!

  7. Fabulous Lizzie, this is the type of book that would really appeal to me .... not fussed at all that it is a children's book!
    By the way - is it snowing here?
    Thanks for your comprehensive review ... another one to search for.

  8. I'm an adult (well, some people would query that, but anyway...) and I love this book! Great choice :-) Must find it and re-read it again! x

  9. my favourite boooook too! and film! in the whole wide world.

    thank you for adding my picture as a clue :)



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