Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gone-Away Lake - Elizabeth Enright

Gone-Away Lake
Elizabeth Enright
Harcourt Young Classics
Original Copyright Date: 1957

The back jacket cover description:
Summer has a magic all its own.

When Portia sets out for a visit with her cousin Julian, she expects fun and adventure, but of the usual kind: exploring in the woods near Julian's house, collecting stones and bugs, playing games throughout the long, lazy days.

But this summer is different

On their first day exploring, Portia and Julian discover an enormous boulder with a mysterious message, a swamp choked with reeds and quicksand, and on the far side of the swamp...a ghost town.

Once upon a time the swamp was a splendid lake, and the fallen houses along its shore an elegant resort community. But though the lake is long gone and the resort faded away, the houses still hold a secret life: TWo people who never left Gone-Away...and who can tell the story of what happened there.

They say "don't judge a book by it's cover." However, the cover alone is all you'll need to know that Gone-Away Lake is a good book: the final deciding criteria is the Newberry Honor medallion printed on it. I've found that that award is almost a guarantor of a good children's/teen's read.

It's been over sixty years since this book was first published, and let me tell you: the story has not suffered over that time. Gone-Away Lake is one of those timeless stories that's great for both children and adults. There's no violence or inappropriate language at all, yet the story will keep you turning pages (at least it will if you like a quiet excitement and mystery).

The book is wonderfully illustrated with plenty of partial pages and even full page illustrations in black and white line drawings, all of which are charming and add to the story enjoyment.

This book has a bit of a funny story for me. I first read it years ago, and I loved it then, but over the years the book vanished, and I forgot the author, title and everything but the storyline (that I discovered last night, I'd remembered with great detail). Over on LibraryThing the Name That Book Group managed to identify the book for me, and let me tell you! it's at least as good as I'd remembered. And, there's a sequel, which I don't think I'd ever read.

I've been told that Gone-Away Lake is suited for Grades 5 and up, so the targeted audience is definitely the nine to twelve year old age group. Personally, I think boys and girls will like it equally (or at least they might have when the book was first written. Now, it may well suit girls a bit more than boys).

Elizabeth Enright, the author, had a knack for descriptions that are extremely visual, but unusual. In this book I came across herds of furniture, swamps that looked like cat's fur and many other, similar descriptions that were different, yet made me see exactly what the author intended. Aside from the story, those descriptions may be my favorite thing about Gone-Away Lake.

Highly recommended for everyone nine and up. Adults too, especially if you're looking for a quick read that will leave you smiling.

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