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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

TOP 100 REVIEWERon 3 December 2017
When Charlotte Makepeace arrives as a new girl at boarding school, she finds herself feeling very apprehensive, but when she is shown to her dormitory by an older pupil who seems kind and friendly, she begins to feel just a little bit better. Told that she can choose whichever bed she would like, Charlotte is immediately drawn to the iron bedstead by the window which has little wheels with ornamental spokes and is easily the best bed in the room. However, when she wakes up the next morning, the dormitory has changed and in the bed next to her is a girl she does not recognize, but who she soon learns is supposed to be her younger sister Emily, who calls Charlotte by the name of Clare. Totally bemused, Charlotte struggles to make sense of what has happened and, as the day progresses, she realizes that she has slipped back in time by forty years to 1918 and has taken the place of Clare who sleeps in an identical iron bed to Charlotte's. And just when Charlotte begins to orient herself, she wakes up the next morning back in her own time, where she learns that during her absence Clare has taken her place. And this strange situation continues - with Charlotte sometimes being herself and other times being Clare - until something happens which traps Charlotte in Clare's time and Charlotte isn't sure that she will be able to find her way back. Although she finds her double life a fascinating experience and she has become fond of Clare's lively sister, Emily, Charlotte has a sister of her own and a home of her own that she would like to return to - but will she be able to find her way back?

With some very good descriptions of situation and setting, this is an engaging story of a young girl's search for identity and of her endeavours to retain her identity and find her place in the world. Penelope Farmer has created an endearing heroine in Charlotte and the supporting characters are convincingly portrayed, especially young Emily, and also Agnes Chisel Brown, with whom Emily and Charlotte lodge for a time and whose brother has been killed in France. Ms Farmer uses her WWI setting to discuss briefly themes such as visions of courage and glory on the battlefield, and of the loss of these visions when disillusionment and fear sets in; and when news of the armistice comes through, the author takes the opportunity to show the headmistress explaining to her girls how as the women of Britain have played their part in the war, they can now no longer be denied the vote. It is true that some aspects of this story will require the reader to suspend their disbelief (I first read this as a child in the 1970s [and again in the 1980s] and even then it was necessary to avoid thinking too much about the time travel aspect of the novel), however, if you allow yourself to engage with the narrative and with the characters within, then there is much to enjoy in this imaginative and involving story. I was rather apprehensive about rereading this book all these years on, but I still found it a rewarding and entertaining read and as I managed to get a vintage Puffin copy with the original cover art and illustrations, this has been a lovely nostalgic reading experience too.

4 Stars.
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on 19 February 2014
The story is intriguing, but the pace glacial. Been reading it to my 10 year old daughter, and I sense that she's listening more to please me, than for her own pleasure. There's just enough there to keep us going, but it's a close run thing. The writing is rather stiff and formal, and oddly unmellifluous. And yet there's definitely something there ... that undefinable something that makes you feel that, however little you're enjoying a book, it's still a classic.
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on 12 April 2017
I read this books over forty years ago as a child of 7 and loved it then. Always remembered it and just thought would I still enjoy it forty years later. I did in fact I loved it and the only surprise was how short it seemed this time! Lasted a lot longer when I was at school. Perhaps reminded me of more simple times but just as beautifully written.
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on 7 September 2017
What a brilliant book. The 10 year old girl loved it. From another era but none the worse for that. If you like Marianne Dreams, give this a try.
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on 15 September 2017
Been an old favourite for decades now! Nothing like being dragged back to school days and time travel to numb the mind. The true definition of escapism is in this book.
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on 1 March 2017
Great read! Even for an adult!
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on 23 August 2005
This is a superbly written children's book from the late 1960s and republished in the 1990s. There is plenty of mystery and you never quite work out why Charlotte is mysteriously transposed in time back to the first world war until the last few pages. I think it's one for slightly older children, perhaps around 10-13, as there are many elements in it around the history of the 1914-18 war which the imaginative teacher could include in class lessons.
It's a great read and I found it difficult to put down, coming back to it fresh after last reading it in my own childhood.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 January 2017
I read this 9+ years timeslip novel for my own pleasure. It is rather old-fashioned and dour, set in a world of darkness and drabness and loss, but the characters are psychologically quite well-written, and it's very realistic in tone.

Charlotte starts at a new boarding school in the 1960s, and is put in a special bed. When she sleeps there, sometimes she wakes up at the same boarding school, but it's now World War I, she is in the body of a different girl called Claire, and there is a little sister present, Emily, who swiftly finds out that Charlotte is an imposter. When this happens, Claire is inhabiting Charlotte's body in the 1960s, and they revert back on the next sleep. At first it is just an inconvenience, attending each other's classes and doing each other's homework, and they write notes to each other across the decades to try to keep track of it all.

Then the WWWI-era headmistress sends "Claire" and Emily to board with a local family, and Charlotte is trapped in an alien time. While she is trying to get back to the 1960s, the family they're boarding with are saturated with grief for their son, who has died in the war, and the deaths of many fathers and brothers of the other schoolgirls are referred to as well. The war ends and there is celebration - but what is going to happen to Charlotte? Will she have to grow old in this time, staying there forever?
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on 14 May 2007
No, it's not your imagination. In the pre-1985 book at the end, Charlotte receives a package from adult-Emily which contains a letter from Emily and the toys they had played with, which Miss Agnes had given them as children over forty years ago. This last part is NOT in the 1985 revised edition for unknown reasons. I think that's too bad as it's rather wonderful. I have no idea why it was edited; perhaps some research into Penelope Farmer (who still writes and has a blog) would answer the question!

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on 23 January 2006
There is something haunting about this book by Penelope Farmer. It is certainly a mystery (and I am not going to give away what it was). Even though I have a poor memory, this book comes back to haunt me time and time again. I suppose it is because it is based on a real event in history. It was one that I had never heard of before I read the book but it made me look it up to see if it was true (and it was). It was something quite dramatic, even more than World War one and the plot revolves around this real life catastrophe.
Happy reading !
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