John Jos. Miller’s CREATURE FEATURE

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For Fans of Ghosts and Kids’ Lit

Sorry for the long silence, but your humble Cheese Magnet correspondent has been holding down the fort alone here for over a week and it seems as if I spend most of my day feeding cats and then cleaning litter boxes.  I’m sure there’s some connection between these two events, but I can’t quite figure it out.  It took a few days, but we have come to a compromise in our schedules.  You don’t wake me up at 6:30 AM to feed you, and I will feed you eventually.  If you’re especially good, you’ll get post-Midnight snacks.  Counting the hours until Gail’s return.

So, here’s another installment in my series of 1950s sf novels, though this time around the book is an out and out fantasy, and probably one you’re not familiar with (unless you’re a big kid lit fan).  I certainly wasn’t until I got the book’s name out of Tuck and picked up a cheap copy on eBay, and I’m glad I did.  In fact, making discoveries like this is one of the great things about this project.

A note on the photos: Couldn’t really find any decent cover art of the book, so instead have supplied some pictures of the old manor house where Boston lived for awhile, which inspired her creation of the manor Green Knowe in the book.

Boston, L. M. :  Children of Green Knowe, The (1955)         (92)

Characters: This is the story of a sad and lonely little boy named Toseland Oldknow who is healed after spending Christmas holiday with his great-grandmother, Linnet Oldknow, at the family’s ancient manor house Green Noah (Green Knowe).  The estate is haunted by the ghosts of Toby (Toseland), Alexander, and Linnet, three children who died of the plague in the 1600s. Also by the ghost of Toby’s horse, the inestimable Feste.  Every character in this book, even the minor ones who have a scene or two, are quite believable.  86

Setting: Country estate, 1950s, probably in southern England, during the Christmas holiday season.  Also all very real, though I wish (a nit) that Boston had anchored it to some real geography.  The manor house, surrounding grounds (especially its animal inhabitants) are convincingly and lovingly brought to life.  94

Plot: Boston pulls off the difficult feat of writing an absorbing book without much of an antagonist, although one is not-entirely-convincingly dragged on-screen at the climax and summarily dealt with.  Rather, the story is a puzzle in which Tolly slowly uncovers the mysteries of Green Noah’s past and just as slowly but surely is accepted by the familial haunts.  Again, pulled off most convincingly.  Boston was wise to keep the story on the short side (but solid at about 150 pages) and illuminated various aspects of it by having great-grandmother Linnet narrate stories about prior inhabitants’ lives and adventures which do at times introduce a certain amount of peril and tension into the storyline.  91

Style: Beautifully written with many fine turns of phrase.  I hope kids can appreciate the prose.  The sense of narrative flow is enhanced by the fact that there are no chapter breaks.  The story just goes naturally along, almost as if one is telling it to you, instead of reading it.  The only breaks occur when great-grandmother relates one of her stories, and then they are simply presented under a header, as, for example: “The Story of Black Ferdie.”  96

Rating: 92, which is good enough to tie this book for fifth place on my 1950s list (And three of the novels ahead of her are THE LORD OF THE RINGS, which doesn’t seem fair.  I’ve got to finally decide if I want to treat LOTR as one book, as Tolkien intended, or three, as publishing reality insisted.).  Needles to say, highly recommended, especially for Anglophiles and fans of ghost stories and kids’ lit.

Congrats to Dan Blair on winning his movie.  It’s on the way. I hope to see many of you tomorrow at Albuquerque Coimic Expo.

 

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