Plot Summary: When Portia Blake and her cousin Julian discover an old, abandoned community of lake houses in the middle of the woods, they are mystified as to how it got there. Then they meet elderly Mrs. Cheever and her brother Pindar Payton who live there, and summer vacation just got more wonderful!
My Book Review: This was one of those books I pulled off of Mr. S’s bookshelf in sixth grade because he made it mandatory we had to read two of his books each semester. At first I thought it looked boring (I hate it when I’m made to read a book), but as the story got going I quickly became glued to it! [Thanks, Mr. S! 🙂 ] This was a reread for me, nearly sixteen years later, but I was surprised to find how much I remembered about it. Unfortunately, I read it at an age where I didn’t take note of authors and titles, so it took me many years to find this gem again.
Elizabeth Enright certainly was a talented childrens’ book author. The book was first published in 1957, which I deem the height of the golden age of children’s literature. They often don’t make kids’ books like these anymore. What I love about Gone-Away Lake is the realistic POV of the children characters. They view summer as we all viewed summer at that age… full of sun and exploring and bugs and fun mysteries to solve.
“The kind where everything is peaceful and a little bit better than real.”
This book is written with such detail. How much fun would it be to discover a mysterious abandoned village of houses in the middle of the woods? And to meet a delightful old couple who never completely grew up? I think we have just as much fun as Portia, Julian, and Foster do all summer long!
Enright’s love and understanding of nature is evident throughout the book. She doesn’t go overboard with loading us with biology, but her descriptions of swamp and woods, storms, and late summer are what make us experience Gone-Away with all our senses. I love her contrast between old and new. The young children fall in love with wonderful Minnehaha Cheever and Pindar Payton, who ironically are eternally young despite their age. Gone-Away has a way of drawing out the youth of the adults who eventually come to visit the old houses, as well.
One of my favorite and most memorable parts is when the children first meet Mrs. Cheever in leg-of-mutton sleeves, who shows them her old Victorian drawing room. She explains that she salvaged every good piece of furniture from the other houses and so her room is overstuffed with sofas and plant stands. Each wall is decorated with a different patterned wallpaper. A two page illustration cemented this scene in my mind forever afterwards. The drawings by Beth and Joe Krush are the detailed line drawings you would love to color in with colored pencils. If I ever find my own Gone-Away copy at a used book sale, that is exactly what I’m going to do!
There isn’t a thing I disliked about this book and I highly recommend it to one and all as a delightful summer read! I often find that children’s books are even better enjoyed as an adult, so don’t make the mistake of believing you’re ‘too old’ and pass by this treasure! But I loved it immensely at 11 and wish that I had known back then that there was a sequel, Return to Gone-Away (which I am definitely planning on reading, too).