Recent Reads: A Stranger at Green Knowe

I admit that I have stayed up slightly too late tonight so I could add one more book onto my “books read in 2013” list, which I believe has capped out at about 65 books. Not quite as good as last year, when I think I managed around 75, but a lot better than my nadir of 15. @.@


I re-read all of the Green Knowe books repeatedly as a child, but reading them again as an adult has been a revelation. The descriptions and the ability to reveal the world the way a child sees it are unparalleled throughout, even in RIVER, which is less a novel than a series of vignettes strung together on the back of a river.

STRANGER is the most powerful and heartbreaking of the four I’ve re-read so far; it’s the story of Hanno the gorilla, captured in the Congo as a baby, and Ping, an orphan who befriends him. The first fifty or so pages are entirely from Hanno’s viewpoint and are simply magnificent. When we return to Green Knowe and Ping’s story, we’re brought back to the delight and charm and simplicity of youthful storytelling, which is maintained all the way up through the relentless and inevitable end. It’s masterfully done.

And, in counterpoint, there are also moments of dreadful racism, made all the worse by the utter beauty they’re surrounded by. In this, they’re a product of their time, which is not to forgive the flaw, but to acknowledge what may be the only aspect of the books that (thankfully) isn’t timeless.