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I borrowed this book from the junior library at about the time it came out and, to use an expression I didn't learn until much later, it blew me away. It's impossible to recapture the first fine careless rapture, but I have seen more in it on several re-reads. Quite apart from the time-slip factor, there are so many wonderful scenes, like the skating. I'm so glad it's still in print for children to enjoy today. I have an old Puffin copy on yes, a shelf of favourites. I much prefer the original Susan Einzig cover, BTW.

Dark Puss

I didn't read it as a child and suspect that I might have enjoyed it more when I was 10 than I did in my fifties. It is well written and quite clever in many respects and I was interested to see the author include those discussions about the nature of time and reality with Tom's uncle. I was not convinced by the episode at the top of the church tower where Tom's brother Peter makes a fleeting and to my mind unnecessary, appearance.

In case you feel that I just don't like children's stories anymore as an adult separated by forty-something years from the intended audience I should say that I still like the books by Alan Garner. Perhaps I need just some hint of evil in my magic to enjoy such stories?


Yes, the skating scene is wonderful!
I agree with you about the cover. I think this is the original one:
My edition (shown above) contains her illustrations but the cover is by Paul Howard; I do like its blueness, though.


I must re-read the tower passage in the light of your comment, and I'm glad you found the time/reality discussions interesting.
Re. your final sentence, maybe one day your avatar appear with the name 'Not-so-Dark-Puss'!

Barbara MacLeod

I have to confess (as I write on this dreach day in Glasgow) that I’m here for the cake.

Yes, I got the book out of the library and read it until I got to Tom passing through a door like a ghost. Oh dear ... I think that was Chapter 3 and I put it down and knew there was no way I was going to finish this book.

All is not completely lost however ... It made me realise all these years later why I never read books as a child despite being surrounded by them and having a mother who was an avid reader. Discussing this with a friend this week, she said “It’s fantasy that you don’t go for.” True. I wish I’d known that word as a youngster! (Needless to say, I am still the same today.)

However, now that I’m here partaking of the coffee and cake, I would like to offer an observation I have made as I have been reading a couple of other recently published books (no names). The subject relates to “typos” and yet, curiously, I am not talking about, say, a word with “&*@“ in the middle of it, nor confusing words and meanings like “continuous” and “continual”. What I am thinking of would appear to be Spell Checker glitches.

I will illustrate what I mean by an experience I had with my iPhone (and thus highlighted the problem when I was reading later on). I hastily typed in the title of a poem that was in a funeral Order of Service: “Praise of a Man” by Norman MacCaig. Later when I went to look it up on Google I typed in what I had written but could not find this well-known Scottish poet’s work. What had happened was that my predictive texting had changed my (perhaps misspelled?) word “praise” to “place”. So ... this week, not once but twice in the first 40 pages of a book published in 2008, I have come across words that I am sure fall into this category.

Susan in TX

This is a favorite at our house, but I went ahead and reread it to refresh my mind as it has been about seven years since I read it last. Enjoyed it as much as ever, and was struck this time around as Dark Puss pointed out, by the time taken by the uncle to have the time and reality conversations. I agree also that the last minute appearance of Peter at the top of the tower did feel a little forced and was completely unnecessary. (It felt like it was a slight opportunity for the author to set up a sequel if she had decided to later on.) I'm not a huge fan of fantasy in general, but there is something so magical about the moment when Tom pulls up the boards and pulls out the skates. I appreciated too, the way that Hatty describes him as fading more and more as time passes, presumably as she outgrows her need for him. Good selection - thanks for picking this one!

Jenny In Edinburgh

I loved this book. I never read it as a child but I am sure I would have loved it then too. I found it very poignant and by the end I was even quite tearful. I bookmarked the "nothing stands still" reference and for me this is is the source of the poignancy. Sixty years have passed Between Hattie's wedding to young Barty and her meeting with Tom on that last Saturday, and here we are almost sixty years on a again since the "modern" setting of the book.

Whilst reading the episodes in the garden, I had fleeting recollections of my own childhood, e.g. playing house under the weeping willows of Saughton Park. As I don't have children, I don't have a chance to indulge these sorts of memories very often, so I enjoyed this aspect. I also agree that the ice skating was magical!

Wonderful wonderful suggestion Cornflower. Many thanks.

Simon T

I love this book very much, but actually only read it when I was 21, after growing up watching the wonderful TV series. The final scenes are so touching, and the idea is executed wonderfully. Great post btw, Karen!

Mr Cornflower

Despite being born in the same year this book was published and growing up as a voracious reader, I missed it the first time round and am very glad to have had a second chance. I thought it had a lot going for it - imaginative plot, credible characters, a beautifully evoked setting which shows the author's familiarity with a very distinctive part of England, and enough at various levels of understanding to engage the interest of a wide range of readers. Some of the plot twists were a bit obvious - I can't have been the only one to guess at a relatively early stage that Tom's ghostly companion and the crabbit old lady upstairs would turn out to be one and the same - but overall I really enjoyed it.


A delightful post Christmas read. My library copy has the previously noted original cover and that lends a special something and an historical frisson.
Her descriptions of Tom's physical passage through time especially intrigued me. The delicacy of the imaginative detail appealed to my "inner child " who is too often locked away and magically released by such a whimsical read as this.


I did not read this book as a child either and I did enjoy it. The only thing that seemed a bit forced was the appearance of Peter in the church tower and yes it was obvious that Hatty and the old lady upstairs were the same person. I can see why it became a children's classic. It held my attention and I didn't feel like I was reading a children's book. It is a good start to the New Year.

Carol Norton

I missed this as a child but read it to my son when he was small and we both absolutely loved it - I think it was our favourite of all the classics we read together. It held all its magic for me this time round, particularly the skating, which has always reminded me of the skating at the beginning of Love for Lydia by HE Bates. We went on to read others of hers, particularly Minnow on the Say. She was a wonderful writer and although the modern detail is by necessity of its time, it still held me. I could have cried for Tom when he went through the door and saw the bins - as I could cry for many big houses and gardens we have ruined.


It was my first time to read this book, and I enjoyed it very much. But I couldn't help feeling that I would've enjoyed it even more if I had read it as a child. There are some parts that I especially like such as the discovery of the skating shoes hidden under the floor boards; the rewarding and touching ending where all the mysteries are explained. It was so engaging a book that it was hard to put down and I felt a bit sad when I reached the end. I borrowed the book from the library but I'll definitely buy a copy for my daughter when she gets older. It's a magical captivating story, it would be a perfect read for summer holiday for children.


Have an extra large slice of cake, Barbara!
Good to know our own reading strengths and 'weaker spots', and thank you for trying the book.
Typos are maddening, however they have occurred, and they are particularly vexing in e-books where, you'd think, it would be a simple matter for the publishers to correct them.


Thank you, Susan, and I'm glad it was still a hit with you.


Thanks, Jenny.
That "nothing stands still" line is indeed a powerful one.


Thank you, Dr. Thomas!


I don't recall having read it as a child, either, but I'm glad to have come to it now.


I like the phrase "magically released"! Thanks, Martina.


I'm glad you think so, Anji. It did feel like just the thing for the Christmas/New Year period.


You are so right about lost houses and gardens, Carol - heart-breaking.


Yes, the skates under the floor are a lovely touch.
I hope your daughter will enjoy it when she's old enough for it, Michi.


Better late than never! After reading all these reviews I have just ordered a copy. (Is there any cake left by any chance?)


Come on over, Freda!


As I'd hoped this was a lovely curl up by the fire read. Very much of it's time of course which added to the charm and I really enjoyed the period feel of it all. I don't think I'd describe the supernatural aspect as fantasy. I'd decided that Mrs Bartholomew being Hatty was too obvious - I was being too grown up. Why would there be a twist, of course she was going to be Hatty - silly me! I'd agree the skating scene was lovely and beautifully written. Good choice for January, thank you.


You're right, Claire, a real 'curl up by the fire' book!


I'm another who missed out on reading this as a child. I'm not sure why as it's exactly the type of book I loved to read, although I do have vague memories of watching the TV series.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even though I guessed as others have said that Hatty and Mrs Batholomew where one and the same at the beginning. I'm looking forward to sharing this one with my children in a couple of years time when they are old enough.


So glad you liked it enough to give it to your own children, Karoline, and I hope they will love it when the time comes.

Alison Collins

As always I have read this month's old favourite from childhood. I remember sitting on the school hall floor cross legged in rows watching a TV adaption on the school TV. The telly being on tall legs so that everyone could see and in those days seemed huge.
I always enjoy everyone's comments but rarely comment myself but usually just lurking in the background.


Many thanks, Alison!

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