Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Astercote; A Stitch in Time - Penelope Lively

I'm starting to detect a trend with Penelope Lively's books: she's an author who likes to have her characters travel in time - mentally/psychologically rather than physically.


Peter and Mair Jenkins move to live in a new housing estate near the old Cotswold village of Astercote when their father becomes headmaster of the school there. They meet up with a man named Goacher, in the woods near Astercote; he is the son of the Tranter family who farm the land around and is a bit simple. Goacher keeps a chalice hidden in the woods, which the villagers believe ward off the plague by which the village of Astercote was destroyed in the Middle Ages and the ruins of which have long since been swallowed up by the woods. However, when the chalice goes missing, the villagers all believe they are contracting the plague, and barricade themselves in against outsiders. Peter and Mair, with Evadne the district nurse, try to find Goacher, believing he has moved the chalice, so that life can return to normal, but things are more complicated than they seem. And Mair is seeing and hearing things that aren't there...

A Stitch in Time

This book won the Whitbread Children's Book Award in 1976. Maria, a quiet only child, goes to spend the summer holidays with her parents in Lyme Regis. Maria is not very good at making friends, coming from a reserved family, and she much prefers talking to inanimate objects or animals. However, at the home of the lady who owns the house in which she and her parents are staying, Maria finds a sampler that was stitched by a girl named Harriet in 1865 and she finds herself seeing the house through Harriet's eyes, and hearing things (such as a garden swing and a barking dog) that are no longer there. Maria becomes convinced that a tragedy surrounds Harriet when she cannot find any photos of Harriet as a grown woman in her landlady's photo album. But what is the tragedy and what does it have to do with the barking dog ?

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