I was not sure that I was going to like this book, the fourth in the sextet of Green Knowe books, because from the beginning – indeed for the first 50 or so pages – it is decidedly un-Green Knowe-ish.
The original Children of Green Knowe has been a firm favourite for most of my life, and is still the best of them all with it’s story of Tolly in the strange house by the river with the floods, the storms, and the ghosts. A Stranger at Green Knowe begins in Africa and is almost anthropological in its tale of how Hanno the gorilla comes to be in England. Even after we meet Ping again, re-entering the story from the Mrs Oldknowe-free River at Green Knowe, we are not sure how the story is going to get back to the old house in the Fens…
But the story does return to Green Knowe, and the pace of the story accelerates, building and building to an all too hasty, shocking, and believable end. Be prepared for a rollercoaster and tears.
Note: I first became properly aware of Witch-hazel flowers after reading The Children of Green Knowe, and at this time of year, in the dark days of the new year, when witch-hazel flowers bloom, I always seem to think of that Fenland manor house and the stories it can tell.