Charlotte Sometimes : Penelope Farmer

Charlotte Sometimes (The New York Review Children's Collection)Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Charlotte, new student at a boarding school, has one of those days we’ve all had when we’re new somewhere. Exhausted, nervy, confused, she goes to bed and wakes up in the same school forty years earlier. Turns out she’s swapped places with a schoolgirl of that time – Clare – and somehow they keep shifting places …

I’m rubbish at writing synopses so I apologise for the fact that the above sounds distinctly bald. Charlotte Sometimes really isn’t. It reminded me of Adele Geras’ Egerton Hall trilogy (I’ve written about these amazing books here) and also of Phillipa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden. There’s a very lyrical dreamlike quality to all of these texts who deal, in some way or another, with issues of self and identity. Growing up. Becoming who you’re meant to be. Finding out how you become an individual.

Sometimes children’s literature is missold in a way. It’s presented as children’s literature but in reality it deals with issues that cross age, sex and arbitary reading divisions. I know that there are depths of content and meaning that I’m going to have to go back to Charlotte Sometimes for. I could feel them at the edge of my reading and I love that – that tangible sense of a text having more than what I’m currently reading.

Charlotte Sometimes is a book I’m astounded I’ve never come across before. It’s quietly beguiling, elegantly written and fog-bound in mystery. Sometimes when you read things, you put the book down and step away and drop it out of your head immediately. I don’t think this will be happening soon with this one.

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3 thoughts on “Charlotte Sometimes : Penelope Farmer

  1. It is a truly fantastic book; haunting and sparingly written. I agree with you- it is an all-age book rather than a girls’/ chikdren’s book. It’s one of the ones I would love people dismissive of children’s authors (yes, I’m looking at *you*, Amis) to read- there is nothing simplistic about it, just because it is written simply.

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