There are a few books that I cherish from my childhood- A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Heidi, Matilda, Tracy Beaker- but few that had quite the impact that this one did when I read it aged about nine or ten (which I wrote a bit about here the other day). I remember this one quite clearly, mainly because it was the first time I think I was exposed to a hint of romance in a children’s novel and also because I think it kickstarted a love of history and a sympathy for Mary, Queen of Scots that I’ve had for years (and probably all the other beheaded queens I’ve obsessed over since my teens). I also very vividly remember writing pretty much this story word for word in my Year 6 SATS and my teacher praising me for my ‘imagination’. If only she knew!
Revisiting it as an adult was absolutely gorgeous. This is a timeslip novel in which a young girl finds her way to the past in her great-aunt and great-uncle’s farmhouse, Thackers. The house has a connection to Anthony Babington, who is famously known for the Babington Plot and Penelope finds herself embroiled in a daring plot to free Mary, Queen of Scots. Throughout the novel, Penelope falls in love with her family both in the ‘modern’ day (the novel was written in 1939, although often feels older, due to Penelope’s rural family) and the 1500s, as well as Anthony Babington’s brother Francis. I remember desperately hoping that one day I could find a place where I could slip back in time and a random lad might sing ‘Greensleeves’ at me…
I was also surprised when I re-discovered this novel (by Googling ‘girl goes back in time, Greensleeves’) that it was written in 1939- I had thought it more modern- and that it was written by Alison Uttley, who is most famous for her Little Grey Rabbit series, which I also remember reading as a much smaller girl.
In a way, re-visiting this book was like a warm hug in difficult times; as if little me is reminding me that the world isn’t always a bad place and that there are things in the world that can be reassuring and comforting. If you’re feeling stressed out at the moment, there’s nothing I can recommend more than re-reading a book you loved, aged 10.
Maybe don’t re-write it yourself though.