by L.M. Boston
Toseland, called Tolly, goes to stay with his great-great-grandmother for his holiday from boarding school. Mrs. Oldknow lives at Green Noah, a grand old manor with beguiling decorations and strange visual effects made by mirrors and shadows. But there are forces beyond the ordinary there, as well. It soon becomes apparent that there are unusual presences in the house – three children, whom Tolly at first cannot see, until they get used to him and show themselves. They are ghosts of siblings who died in the Plague centuries ago, and they take a liking to Tolly. He explores the house and the grounds, with its magic living topiary, and finds items the children loved most in life.
I found this to be a quaint, light children’s fantasy. It’s somewhat dreamlike in tone, with several scenes, such as Tolly’s first sight of the house and its flooded grounds, approaching by boat, that are especially otherworldly. It’s heavy on mood, but not on plot. Mrs. Oldknow tells a few vignettes about the children’s deeds when they were alive, but other than these, there is no conflict to speak of. An ancient curse on one tree on the grounds provides a sort of boogeyman, but the most suspenseful, dangerous scene concerning this is an actual dream of Tolly’s. It’s an evocative, just slightly spooky atmosphere, but without a mystery or conflict or obstacle, this is a setting in search of a plot.