The Elizabeth Enright Books
Admirers of the Swallows and Amazon series might enjoy reading Elizabeth Enright's books.
The first series, about the Melendy family, comprises four books – The Saturdays,
The Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two.
Enright (the architect Frank Lloyd Wright's niece, I believe) illustrated these stories as
well. The second series, Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, were more
recent and were, as far as I know, only illustrated by others.
The Melendy family series reminds me of Ransome in several ways, though the setting
and characters are thoroughly American. The adults are largely absent (not so much
so as in AR's stories) and those who do interact are often in the servant class – though,
like Ransome's characters, they are often well-liked by the children. The family consists of an
eldest daughter (a budding actress and beauty), a boy (athlete and pianist), a younger girl
(dancer) and a youngest child, a boy, who fishes and collects insects. The four of them
engage in various individual and group adventures.
Like the Walkers, Callums, and Blacketts, these children are fully-drawn, distinct characters
who throw themselves into a variety of activities. These tend to be less about serious
play-acting than the Ransome characters' activities, and more grounded in the real world,
but no less engaging. They let us into a world of independent young people who are healthy,
energetic and capable of making their own lives interesting. The first book is set in the
city but the sequels – and the family – move to the countryside. The writing
is clear and at times eloquent and gently humorous; more humor than one finds in Ransome.
The second series, Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, are fine books but
the characters are not quite as fully drawn or engaging. Still, they also are recommended.
The Melendy series is set in pre-war and wartime America (late 30's to late 40's) and the
second series is mid-50's. They don't include sailing or a lot of outdoorsmanship. Enright's
illustrations are quite good but simple. All together, I think any Ransome fan would enjoy
these works for the general atmosphere and realistic concentration on appealing young peoples'
Reviewed by Eric Benke, May, 2004
This article is ©2004 by Eric Benke, and posted on All Things
Ransome with permission.
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