Gone-Away Lake is written by Elizabeth Enright. It was first published in 1957. You can find more information about Enright here.
“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 have never left Gone-away…and who can tell the story of what happened there.”
What I Liked:
If you want to read classic children’s literature, Elizabeth Enright is one of the authors to read. Gone-Away Lake is one of my favorites by her, mostly because the images of idyllic summer, exploration and history are so wonderful to read. This book makes me want to explore the countryside and discover a ghost town. This is something that classic children’s lit does so much better than modern, because in this day and age children don’t really explore by themselves anymore as they did in Enright’s day and earlier. There’s no technology and very little traffic or business in Gone-Away Lake, which means that the book is completely devoted to nature and exploration. And it is wonderful because of it.
This book is also quite funny; Portia and Julian have some amusing dialogue and Enright has some humorous descriptions. The stories Aunt Minniehaha and Uncle Pin tell are wonderful, and the discoveries Portia and Julian make are perfectly described as well as quite stimulating to at least my imagination. That’s one thing to call this book: stimulating.
Again, I just love the explore/discovery aspect of the book. The discovery of the Villa Caprice at the end hints at a sequel, which I probably like even better than this one. But more on that when I review it.
What I Didn’t Like:
Recommended Age Range: 8+
Genre: Children’s, Realistic, Classic
They both climbed up on the little hulk and looked out over the tops of the reeds, a sea of reeds, beyond which, and all around, grew the dark woods. But that was not all. Portia and Julian drew in a breath of surprise at exactly the same instant, because at the northeast end of the swamp, between the reeds and the woods, and quite near to them, they saw a row of wrecked old houses. There were perhaps a dozen of them; all large and shabby, though once they must have been quite elaborate, adorned as they were with balconies, turrets, widows’ walks, and lacy wooden trimming. But now the balconies were sagging and the turrets tipsy; the shutters were crooked or gone, and large sections of wooden trimming had broken off. There was a tree sticking out of the one of the windows, not into it but out of it. And everything was as still as death.
“Do you know what I would like to offer you, children?” said Mrs. Cheever, tying another apron over the one she was already wearing. “Pin, do you know what I would like to offer them?” She paused dramatically. “A house!” she said. “Here are all these old houses! Nothing ever uses them but bats and birds, and some of them are still quite safe. You could pick a safe one and have it for a clubhouse; bring your friends if you wanted. Oh, Pin, wouldn’t it be nice to hear children’s voices here at Tarrigo again? Though perhaps they wouldn’t care for the idea—” she added hesitantly, looking at them.
But Portia, clasping a dish towel to her wishbone, cried: “Heavenly! Oh, Mrs. Cheever, what a heavenly idea!”
And Julian said: “Brother! Would that be neat!”
Gone-Away Lake will have you longing for the type of idyllic summer that Portia and Julian end up having. Exploration and discovery, especially of the countryside and old houses, are some of my favorite things to read about, and this book is what caused me to love it. This book, and any Enright book, are a definite recommendation for any child; it’s one of the pinnacles of classic children’s lit.
You can buy this book here: Gone-Away Lake (Gone-Away Lake Books)