I was vaguely aware this had been a film, but haven’t seen it, so as usual there will be no insightful comparison from me. The posters make it look gloriously romantic though. And thankfully Winnie is aged up. Because oh boy.
It was shorter than I had expected, and a little younger (the heroine is ten), but I found it thoroughly charming. The story is pretty simple, in the same way as I realised The Hobbit is simple when I reread it as an adult, so I sort of wish I’d found it earlier.
Snip for length, kept it pretty spoiler-free.
Seeing everything (most things) through Winnie’s eyes, there are plenty of things she misses – 85 years of things really, when you think of the Tucks – but as with the best children’s writing, it’s all there in the gaps, forming the full picture. Winnie’s feelings were quite fickle and could be contradictory in the way they are when you’re young; I found myself urging her to enjoy her day and night with the Tucks because I knew it was something magical, even when Winnie just wanted to go home.
I liked the naivete of the Tucks too, ordinary people from a much earlier era, which I suppose may not have been safer but was still different, and honestly why would immortal people living on the fringes of society, out of danger and out of mind, ever need to learn guile? Winnie’s feelings towards them, being taken care of by them and wanting to protect them from the world, were lovely.
Her crush on Jesse was pure and innocent, and I think it was good for both of them that they met so briefly, because Jesse seemed the type to get wearing very quickly, and given a little more time he might have realised the implications of his suggestion that she marry him when she was old enough, beyond his initial exultation at having someone to share his secret with. Maybe this is the old lady in me, but Miles was the better prospect, there when she needed someone, quietly sensitive to what she wanted or needed.
Babbitt did a fantastic job of giving each member of the family a different view of the gift, without setting out some contrived debate. She also dealt with Tuck’s particular opinion, and his yearning to finally “move on”, as he put it, lightly and carefully, imparting the weight of it without dragging it down with tasteless sentimentality.
It felt timeless somehow, despite the hints – horses, button up boots, selling a wood with a contract scribbled in a morning – until the very end, when we get the date for the first time, and that ending is pretty much perfect. The whole thing was pretty much perfect. When she’s back at home and feels the threads tying her to her family but also outside them, beginning that exciting, painful process of growing up and out and into her own self, I felt it deeply.
One of those books which seems slight on first glance, but the more you think about it, the more you see the intricacy of the pieces, and the skill with which they fit together. I just wish I could send it back in time to my younger self, because I think she’d have enjoyed it too.