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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable author's own story
Remarkable author's own story
I haven't read the last half of this autobiography -- I wish I had.
But I have read the first part, "Perverse and Foolish", and have every confidence that what Lucy M. Boston began to so well, will be just as good in the second part.
Lucy M Boston -- Knowing the Author Makes a Big Difference

Perverse and Foolish, Oft...
Published 21 months ago by John Gough

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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For lovers of the Green Knowe stories
The first book of Lucy M Boston's memoirs (Perverse and Foolish) concerns her early life up to her failed marriage - and I have to confess, I wasn't very interested in this and skipped it.
Most readers will be more interested in Memory in a House, the story of how she bought the oldest continuously lived-in house in England (they now think it's actually the...
Published on 12 Aug 2008 by booksetc


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable author's own story, 26 Oct 2012
Remarkable author's own story
I haven't read the last half of this autobiography -- I wish I had.
But I have read the first part, "Perverse and Foolish", and have every confidence that what Lucy M. Boston began to so well, will be just as good in the second part.
Lucy M Boston -- Knowing the Author Makes a Big Difference

Perverse and Foolish, Oft I Strayed, may be the lines of the traditional hymn `The King of Love My Shepherd Is'. But in the case of Lucy Boston, the perverseness is more a matter of fascinating English eccentricity, and the foolishness is really more a kind of modesty than a confession of anything more dangerous or silly than naivety and childlikeness.

Lucy Boston is perhaps best known for her classic children's novel The Children of Green Knowe (1954), a seminal time-slip, ghost story, set in a real house, the house Boston herself fell in love with as an adult, the house that features in her other autobiographical memoir, Memory in a House (1973). An excellent discussion of The Children of Green Knowe is given in Aidan Chambers' prize-winning essay "The Reader in the Book", published in Signal number 23 May 1977, and reprinted in Chambers' own book of essays Booktalk: Occasional Writing on Literature and Children (Bodley Head, 1985). Chambers explores the subtle of Boston's telling, and the "gaps" in her story, where the reader is required to work hard, completing what Boston has not said -- is the old grandmother in the book making up stories for her grand-child? is the grand-child's experience with the ghosts a dream, suggested by the grandmother's stories of her ancestors? or is it a child's imagined play? Moreover, what is the resolution of the plight of the illegitimates in the story, the grandchild, and the old gardener, Boggis -- both of them have suffered a Cinderella-like disruption in their families.

The house, `Green Knowe', and the ancient piece of topiary, a gnarled yew tree called `Green Noah' (linked with the name of the house, and the family that live there) are vivid parts of this story. And no wonder, as they are vivid features of Boston's own life. The fact that her son, Peter, illustrates her books, drawing from life, adds a piquant twist to the truth behind the fiction, the underlying reality of generations of history stored in a place, a piece of landscape and a building inhabited across centuries.

The house, or a version of it, along with Boston herself, or a version of her, also feature in her adult novel Yew Hall, a disturbing story of rose gardening, an ancient, possibly malevolent house, adultery, murder and suicide -- hardly a children's book. But the young lovers in the story make the book interesting to Young Adult readers, and others who have read Boston's other stories of her house.

She is a fascinating person, growing up in an odd, decidedly English family. Again and again in her books we encounter aspects of the author, and her house, and her sense of place in a landscape and a history. Her neglected novel Persephone is a Young Adult story which deserves high praise, and should stand alongside the teenage novels of Rumer Godden and Elizabeth Goudge, the books about the angst of adolescence, the joy and terror of early sexuality, the love and agony that comes with Christian faith, and loss of faith. The young girl in the story flees the sexual advances of her step-father, seeks solace in a convent, and then suffers madness and desperation as she falls in love with an aristocratic half-crazed artist. Powerful stuff. Where do authors get their ideas? In Boston's case, from aspects of her own life.

Perverse and Foolish speaks of Boston's childhood, odd and eccentric like many others at the start of the Twentieth century, an era of ageing Victorian conservatism challenged by the new technologies and values of radical thinking and modern science.

Later, poised on the brink of becoming a social butterfly, as her family would wish her to become, Boston flees this, using the horrors of World War I as a way of legitimising her escape. She becomes a Volunteer Nurse in France, seeing the aftermath of the Western Front in the shattered lives of those she nurses, with virtually no formal nurses' training, only the good intentions of being a "volunteer". There she meets men in ways she could not possibly manage, had she stayed at home. There, too, she meets, and marries the man who fathered her only child -- a marriage that was be be dissolved, that could only lead to her long life in the mysterious Green Knowe -- a marriage over which she quickly draws a tactful(?), "shocked(?) veil, refusing to explain what went wrong.

Here is the basis for the books. Well worth finding out.

Some day, we may hope, other parts of her life, the remaining undisclosed secrets, may be told, perhaps by her son, or by a sympathetic biographer.

As with other children's writers and their autobiographies, such as Rosemary Sutcliff, the author herself is as interesting as the author's fiction, and knowledge of the personal life informs the imagined lives the author has created, subtly altering the simple-seeming experience of so-called "children's books".

John Gough (Australia) - jagough49@gmail.com
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For lovers of the Green Knowe stories, 12 Aug 2008
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This review is from: Memories: Incorporating "Perverse and Foolish" and "Memory in a House" (Hardcover)
The first book of Lucy M Boston's memoirs (Perverse and Foolish) concerns her early life up to her failed marriage - and I have to confess, I wasn't very interested in this and skipped it.
Most readers will be more interested in Memory in a House, the story of how she bought the oldest continuously lived-in house in England (they now think it's actually the second-oldest!) and restored it to life ... no small undertaking for a single woman just as World War 2 was breaking out. Hemingford Grey Manor dates back to the 1130s.
The wonderful thing, of course, is that Lucy peopled the house with the ghosts of children she imagined had lived there in the past ... and these stories became her classic Green Knowe series for children. You can visit Hemingford Grey, the house is open by appointment (it's near Huntingdon, Cambs) ...it's a truly magical place to visit and you really can feel the weight of all the lives that have been played out there in the course of 900-odd years. No wonder Lucy felt inspired to write.
If, as a child, you loved those beguiling ghost children Linnet and Alexander - and Tolly, the lonely little boy who played with them - then this is the real-life story of the house and garden where they played.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A rebellious spirit inhabits the house, 25 May 2013
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H. Petre "hpoet" (UK) - See all my reviews
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I bought this book for the love of the Green Knowe series, but found myself skimming over some of the parts about the house or the garden, because they were described in such detail. My preference was for the first part: Perverse and Foolish, describing the author's life up until the time of her disastrous marriage after the First World War.

The author's uncompromising spirit gave me a bit of a headache at times: for example, the author went to live in Austria after the break up of her marriage, and there she adopted the custom of wearing the dirndl, the Austrian national dress. Returning to England and putting on musical evenings and offering lodgings for members of the RAF (air force) stationed nearby, she was very piqued to be suspected of being a spy, and being checked over regularly. Yet, she considered the villagers to be 'narrow minded' for suspecting her because she wore Austrian style clothing! Had she never lived in a village before? I wondered. Small towns and villages thrive on gossip, but the author did not bend with the wind,ever, but continued to plough her own furrow, complaining occasionally about the loneliness.
I will continue to love the Green Knowe Series, and the appeal of living in a partly Noman house is not lost on me,but the feisty side of the author began to irritate me after a while.

However, you may love it...
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Memories: Incorporating "Perverse and Foolish" and "Memory in a House"
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