Books written in 1957 are different from books written in 2010. Why? you ask. Because adventures that children went on together in 1957 are different than adventures children desire to go on in 2010. Because older adults have changed from 1957 to 2010. Because our nation has changed from 1957 to 2010. What does this have to do with the novel Gone-Away Lake, #63 on the Top 100 Children’s Books List? Everything.
In this novel, cousins Portia and Julian are spending the summer at Julian’s parents house, a summer during which they discover an old resort and elderly siblings living in one of the dilapidated houses. Portia and Julian spend most of their days at Gone-Away Lake, traipsing through the woods and the swamp to get there, and keeping their world there a secret from the adults and other children in their lives.
Most children “these days” don’t have any desire to explore woods, lakes or outdoor areas at all. Their explorations involve sports teams, video games and other activities indoors. Most children “these days” don’t spend a lot of time with their cousins. Time spent with family is mostly on holidays, not entire summers spent exploring and having inside jokes and secrets. Most parents “these days” would be entirely creeped out if they found out their children had been spending a lot of time with an elderly couple trapped in the past.
Are these ideas generalizations? Most definitely. Are they my own ideas? Yes. Are they my own independent ideas? Probably not. I just found it refreshing while reading this novel to think of how our world used to be, when a lot more trust abounded and families were closer.
by Elizabeth Enright
Originally published in 1957