I came to this book in a back to front way. Most people read the book then visit the Manor at Hemingford Grey, where the story is set. I first read Lucy Boston's autobiography then visited the house, and finally read the children's story. The Norman manor is absolutely wonderful and a child on the tour I was on was wide eyed with joy at being shown everything exactly as it was in the book. I could understand how she felt when I too held Toby's Japanese mouse, saw the rocking horse, wicker bird cage and painted toy box.
Toseland arrives by river at night to stay with his grandmother. He meets children who lived in the house a very long time ago. The entire book is full of wonderful magic and so is the house still today. Everything is exactly the same and I can't imagine how they manage it. It's not a museum, the day we visited, Lucy's daughter in law had cooked dinner for countless family members and she was concerned about the grandchildren going too near the bees.
I heard several mothers on the tour agree that this was their favourite children's book as they had enjoyed reading it as much as their children enjoyed hearing it. I think it would probably be suitable for any child from age 8 upwards, and any adult who loves magical old fashioned tales of animals and birds, gypsies and horses, and a lonely little boy who finds friendship and love in the magical old manor.
And after reading the book, its possible to step into its pages by visiting the Manor. The music room where Lucy Boston gave recitals to the RAF in the second world war, is entirely intact, down to the mattresses around the wall where they sat, and the 1930's gramophone, which still plays - we heard it. The wonderful gardens and Lucy's patchworks can also be admired.