Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit

It has been a difficult week for reading. Earlier in the week my daughter came down with the flu... and then so did I. After recovering from that she started a rather miserable bought of teething... and so here we are. It's Thursday and I've done (understandably so) little reading, resulting in no book reviews, until today!

Last night I was up late and finished The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit.... which I forgot to mention in last week's Friday Finds. I learned about this book through Fireside Musings' review posted on Semicolon's weekly Saturday Review.

The Enchanted Castle is not your average fairytale. In fact, it was the first of it's kind. Before Nesbit wrote The Enchanted Castle there were basically only two types of children's fantasy. The Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz type where the hero/heroine drops into a magical world and is trying to get back to the real world. The other type was more along the lines of The Princess and Curdie where the entire story takes place in a magical world. Nesbit's writing changed all this; she created a real world of heroes and heroines who encounter magic and fantasy without leaving their homes. Her writing actually influenced many other authors, including C. S. Lewis. (And yes, I did notice this because there were some vaguely familiar elements between the four children in The Enchanted Castle and the four children in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.)

The Enchanted Castle begins with three siblings: Gerald (Jerry), Kathleen (Cathy), and James (Jimmy) who are summering at Cathy's English boarding school under the careful watch of a French governess. (The story is set some time during the "Edwardian period" which means roughly the turn of the last century.) One day while exploring in the woods they stumble upon a large estate with beautiful gardens... and a sleeping princess! One thing leads to another and before the siblings realize they have made a new friend and become mixed up in some mysterious magic.

The Enchanted Castle is quite the adventure and Nesbit's writing has both charm and wittiness. The only downfall is around chapters 9-11 of 12 where the story seems to drag a little and become even more fantastical before wrapping up neatly in the last chapter. But I pushed through this part and finished the book happy to have read it.

I obtained my copy from my local library. It was published in 1992 at 288 pages in large print (easy for young eyes) with beautiful color illustrations by Paul O. Zelinksy. Originally published in 1907, The Enchanted Castle has remained a classic over the years and is one that could be enjoyed by adult and child alike. And like so many of my recent reads, could be a fun read-aloud for those who have children in the house.

On that note, there are a couple minor matters I should mention to the reader considering sharing it with a child. First, as the heroes/heroines are children the story, it does contain some childish squabbles, but these always end well with lessons learned and apologies made. Two other matters were also minor to me, but might not be for others. First, at one point in the story a bit of magic goes wrong and results in a frightening moment for the children, but should not be so for a reader. Last, a few Greek gods and goddess and other mythical creatures are included in the magic of the story, but only lightly so and should not be a problem for most readers.

One final note, I read online that a TV mini-series was produced by BBC in the last 1970s, but has never been converted to video or DVD. I'd be very curious to see any of these episodes, but perhaps they weren't that great after all. However, today's CG graphics could make this book into a great film!


ibeeeg said...

Yet another book for me to put on my list of reads for my 9yod.
Thanks for the review.

Carrie said...


BOO to you.


I JUST picked up a copy of this book YESTERDAY and was hoping to beat you.

You win.


Anonymous said...

That book sound cool. I loved Nesbit's Five Children and It, but I didn't know she wrote other fantasy-theme books. Neat! :)

Rebecca Reid said...

sounds like a great book! I've added it to my list.

Anonymous said...

I tried reading this at some point but didn't care for it. I can't remember how old I was, so maybe I hit the same trouble spot as you did and being younger, didn't push through as well as you did. One of my VERY favorite children's fantasy is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Have you read it? I remember the descriptions were delicious!

Sarah M. said...

Yes, I loved the book. I posted one of my first reviews in July and it included The Little White Horse. (

Noël De Vries said...

Weird... after years of twisting my cousin's arm, I bought The Enchanted Castle for her for Christmas, and she finally read it ... then posted a review on her blog, Fireside Musings. I happened to notice your review on Semicolon, and here I am. What's that L'Engle quote about the butterfly effect? to think about.

Glad you liked The Enchanted Castle! The Books of Wonder edition is the only way to go.

Carrie said...

Ok, I've read it and posted my "review" of it....which just links back to yours. =D