A Stranger at Green Knowe

In some ways, even though it involves no magic at all, A Stranger at Green Knowe is the most extraordinary story of the whole series. While I was re-reading it, ten years after I read it aloud to her at the age of nine, my elder daughter picked it up and said, 'Oh, Green Knowe! So sad.' I read her this novel when she was in the grip of an obsession with gorillas, and she made me stop reading before the inevitable tragic end, so that in her imagination, Hanno the escaped gorilla would stay safe and happy in the garden of Green Knowe forever (as it seems he might, in ghostly form, according to the next book).

Displaced child Ping returns to Green Knowe at the invitation of old Mrs Oldknow, and he serves as a surrogate great-grandson to her in place of Tolly. As always, the easy, playful, respectful relationship between the very old and the very young is touching and delightful. And Ping's loyalty and empathy with Hanno, another creature displaced from his proper home, is beautiful.

Of course there can be no happy ending to this book (in fact the last three books in the Green Knowe series are all quite melancholic) but when Ping declares, 'It's all right. I saw him choose,' most readers will accept a fitting conclusion. Not Alice, though. And her solution has its own magic.


  1. I can see I am going to have to re-read the Green Knowe books. Or rather, the other ones. The three I've read and re-read are Children, Chimneys and Enemy...which leaves River, Stranger and Stones not really lodged in my memory at all. I am searching for the right books at present - books for tough times? - and finding it hard to settle to fiction. A move to children's books might be just the right step.

  2. I have loved re-living the world of Green Knowe, it has refreshed my spirit. Children and Chimneys are my favourites but the others are definitely worth reading too. River is charming, Enemy I always found a bit creepy (I'll talk about that next) and Stones is beautiful in its own way, albeit with a sad ending. I hope these books are still being read, judging from the modern looking editions around they are still in circulation!

  3. I've enjoyed reading these recaps of the Green Knowe books. I remember that I read most of the them as a child, but remember very little about them except for odd scraps. Does a boy get a dog for Christmas - after a tantalising card with a picture of two puppies whose names are 'wait' and 'see'? Does a patchwork quilt have a valuable stamp hidden in it? I may be mixing up details from other books! I remember enjoying them, but without feeling any urge to reread them as I grew older. I wonder what makes the difference between books that are 'held onto' and reread, and the equally good books that were loved but left behind.

  4. I think you are remembering other books, Ann :) Tolly does get a dog for Christmas, but his name is Orlando -- Wait and See don't ring any bells with me! And there is no stamp hidden in the patchwork quilt... I'm now very intrigued as to what these other mysterious books might have been!
    I think the permanence and security of Green Knowe appealed to me as a child after a lot of moving around, the sense that it would always be there waiting. As indeed it has been :)