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The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit

THE ENCHANTED CASTLE (1907) by E. Nesbit is one of her best books, and certainly towards the end her most poetic.  It begins with three siblings, Gerald, Jimmy and Kathleen, discovering the Sleeping Beauty in a hidden castle and waking her up.  She turns out to be Mabel, the housekeeper’s daughter.  These four have a series of fantastic adventures in and around the castle involving a magic wishing ring.  As in all Nesbit’s magic stories the magic comes with logical rules and problems – all the children’s wishes turn out messily. Invisibility, becoming twelve feet tall, wishing you were old, turning into a statue.  The best sequence is where the children, needing an audience for the play they’re performing, make pretend people out of brooms, sticks and a variety of old clothes, then wish for them to come alive.  The wish comes true and, in a weird and scary chapter, the children have to deal with these ‘Ugly-Wuglies’ who speak incomprehensibly because they have no roofs to their mouths, and wish to be taken to a good hotel.  For me this sequence is one of the oddest in all children’s literature.  The book is often funny and the children believable.  The book rises to poetry in the chapters where the greek statuary in the castle gardens comes to life in the moonlight and swim in the lake with the children.  I first read this book many years ago and I was not disappointed on re-reading it.  I love E. Nesbit’s writing style, with its humour, and the way in which she frequently addresses the reader.


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