Return to Gone-Away: It’s Just A Bit Of A Fixer-Upper…With Hidden Jewels

Return to Gone-Away is written by Elizabeth Enright. It was first published in 1961. It is the sequel to Gone-Away Lake. More information about Enright can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“A wish come true. That’s what Portia thinks when her parents buy Villa Caprice, a tumbledown Victorian house along the swampy edge of Gone-Away Lake. A new house is always full of surprises, but Portia is completely unprepared for the extraordinary things that happen when her family moves into a new old house.

Empty for half a century, ugly as a horned toad, Villa Caprice is a mildewy, cobwebby, boarded-up, junk-cluttered museum to a way of life long forgotten. But it is also a wonderland, filled to the rafters with fifty years’ worth of treasures and secrets—small mysteries that Portia and Julian must solve to uncover the greatest secret of all….”

~Back Cover

What I Liked:

I think I like this one even more than Gone-Away. If I had to credit my love for old houses and exploring them to any one thing, it would probably be this book. This book fulfills my itch to go to an old house and explore it, redecorate it, go to the attic and explore the chests, search for secret passages and drawers, find lost and forgotten relics of the past…

Both Gone-Away and Return to Gone-Away have that great exploration and adventure feel to them. Enright has a way of writing that makes everything, every action, word, and thought, seem so natural and accurate. The date of Return’s writing means that it’s free of the oftentimes boring/obvious/sickening plot devices that are commonly used today, making for a refreshing and relaxing read.

Opening the trunks in the attic and discovering the safe are probably my favorite parts of the book. Again, I love exploration and discovery, old houses, and the general adventure-y feel in books, and this book hits all of those points.

What I Didn’t Like:

Nothing!

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Realistic, Children’s, Classic

Passages/Quotes:

Walking briskly, they came to a turn in the drive, the tress thinned out, and there before them stood the Villa Caprice.

There it stood among its dead and brambled lawns, with all its windows boarded up and a big, tough, tangled vine, leafless now, tied round and round the battlements, the turrets, and the gables like a giant’s wrapping twine. Beyond the house the ragged hedges looked black, and the queer tree that was called a monkey-puzzle tree looked black, too, and bristling. The whole scene was shabby and forbidding.

“Oh, dear!” wailed Mrs. Blake. “I didn’t remember it as being quite so—quite so—”

“Bleak,” Mr. Blake supplied. “And this is what we called a bargain! We must have been out of our minds!”

~Enright 33

Among the large trunks there was a very small one, a box really, covered with cowhide and bearing on its curved lid the initial D, made of brass nailheads. She lifted the lid cautiously (she had been very cautious since opening the fur trunk) and saw that the little chest was filled to the brim with yellowed paper bundles.

“Jule, come here; let’s see what these are.”

The paper was so old that it crumbled and powdered when she opened the first bundle; and what it had contained was a seashell, curved and dappled as a little quail.

“Why, how pretty!”

“Look, it’s got a label on it, too.”

And so it had; a tiny glued-on label with the Latin name of the shell written on it in meticulous old-fashion handwriting.

Cypraea zebra,” Julian read, pronouncing the zebra part correctly.

Portia had opened another bundle and held out a brown shell, fancy as a fern.

Murex palmarosae,” read Julian, stabbing wildly at pronunciation.

~Enright 115-116

Overall Review:

Return to Gone-Away is a worthy, and oftentimes better, successor to Gone-Away. The stories of Tarrigo return, and coupled with the exploration of a decades-old house and the discovery of treasures from the past make this book a treasure itself. I’d forgotten how much I love Enright, and these books reminded me.

You can buy this book here: Return to Gone-Away

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