A site for the study of twentieth century British children’s books, particularly historical fiction, and their relationship to social change
Clive Barnes

2011 “Where you belong is what you are”: aspects of heritage, identity, class, magic and childhood in Lucy Boston’s Green Knowe novels

“Where you belong is what you are”: aspects of heritage, identity, class, magic and childhood in Lucy Boston’s Green Knowe novels. 2011

Abstract

Lucy Boston’s Green Knowe sequence is concerned with heritage: what is worth preserving of the past because of its meaning for us in the present. Deliberately confusing her reality with her fiction, Boston offered a particular English rural heritage (and her own way of life) as a refuge from the modern world, and incidentally played a part in translating the life of the English landed gentry, and the English country house, from a dominant place in British society to a treasured place in social memory. The tensions in her work between the social exclusivity of the heritage she valued and her conviction that Green Knowe was an ideal world to which all children could belong can be traced in the interplay between insider and outsider in her work, and in the way in which her notions of nature, imagination, magic and childhood are shaped by contrary urges to include and exclude.

This was published in The Journal of Children’s Literature Studies 8(3) November 2011, which was the last publication of that journal. It was peer reviewed. The paper explores Lucy Boston’s portrayal of heritage in her Green Knowe novels and her conviction set out there that the English built heritage offers an ideal world of beauty and magic to which all children can belong. This research and my reading of Kim Wilson’s Re-Visioning Historical Fiction for Young Readers, Routledge, New York and Abingdon, 2011, suggested to me that children’s historical fiction might best be regarded as an expression of heritage thinking, in which the importance of the past resides in the way it is seen as shaping present identities. My review of Kim Wilson’s book was published in International Research in Children’s Literature 5 (2), 217-219.