08/02/2014

The Enchanted Castle (by E Nesbit)

I do like children's fiction, particularly the books written in the early-to-mid part of the 20th century. And while E Nesbit wasn't my favourite author when I was a child, I did enjoy some of her books such as 'The Railway Children'. So I was pleased to find some of her lesser-known books available in Kindle form; they are out of copyright so it was easy to find a free version.

I am not sure if I ever read 'The Enchanted Castle' as a child, although the title sounds familiar. It's the story of three siblings, Gerry, Jimmy and Kathleen. They have to stay at Kathleen's boarding school one holiday, due to illness elsewhere. They are loosely in the charge of the French mistress, but Gerry manages to charm her and they find themselves given a great deal of freedom - perhaps typical for the era, since most of E Nesbit's fictional children seem to roam the countryside unescorted.

So the children set out with a picnic to explore the neighbourhood and after making up lots of adventures they find themselves in the grounds of a castle. It feels magical, and then they come, a young girl dressed as a princess who is fast asleep. They play at 'Sleeping Beauty' for a while, and the princess turns out to be Mabel, niece of someone who works at the castle. She befriends the children and shows them some 'magic', using tricks of the castle, only to discover that a particular ring is indeed magical, granting various wishes with a variety of consequences...

I suppose the overall idea is somewhat similar to that of the better-known 'Five Children and It', but with more of a theme of castles and jewels, interspersed with the ongoing plotline of trying to be nice to the somewhat sad mam'selle who is staying in the school. Sometimes amusing, in a low-key way, this was quite fun to read.

Unfortunately my Kindle version was rather poorly converted, meaning that a lot of the punctuation was missing, so it jarred somewhat as I read. I assume that in book format it would be considerably easier to read.

Intended for children aged around 8-11, the language is inevitably dated, since the book was first published in 1907. Some of the concepts may seem rather naive, even unpleasant or racist - yet E Nesbit was herself very socially for her era. What I particularly like about her books is that she gets nicely inside the minds of children, so that it's easy to identify with them. Overall, this is an enjoyable story, if a little bizarre. Recommended.

'The Enchanted Castle' is in print in various formats on both sides of the Atlantic, quite inexpensively, so I would suggest buying a paperback rather than this flawed Kindle edition.

Review by Sue F copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

1 comment:

maryom said...

I discovered this as an adult, reading along with my eldest daughter who preferred E Nesbit's fantasy/magical stories to The Railway Children, and the Ugly-wugglies have to be the creepiest things EVER!