This is one of those books that I would love to talk about, would love more people to read, but I know that I can’t say very much at all without giving too much away.
The book was published in 1974. ‘Come Back, Lucy’ was the British title and ‘Mirror of Danger’ the American. There was a television adaptation in the late 1970s, Pamela Sykes wrote a number of books for young readers that were well liked and are fondly remembered, but I haven’t been able to find out anything else about her.
Thank goodness though for Open Library, where so many novels that were loved but have been forgotten find a home.
And so to the book.
I might express it as a recipe:
Mix equal amounts of:
– Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
– The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
– Tryst by Elswyth Thane
Dust with Victoriana and then leave it to rest in the 1970s …..
Lucy was an orphan and she had been raised by her Aunt Olive. Raised in the same way that Aunt Olive was raised in many years earlier. She was educated at home, she learned the domestic arts, she read Victorian novels, and in the evenings she played cribbage and made scrapbooks with her aunt.
She was happy, with just the two of them, but of course she was totally lost when her aunt died.
Lucy was lucky. She had relations who had never met her, but they were ready to offer a home, to bring her up alongside their own children in the lovely Victorian house they were renovating.
They were lovely, but everything about their lives was alien to Lucy. It wasn’t that they were odd, they lived as people did in the 1970s, but Lucy wasn’t used to that at all. She didn’t like it at all. She didn’t understand them and they didn’t understand her.
She carried on daydreaming. And she thought that maybe she had dreamed up Alice; who was like her, who understood.
But Lucy hadn’t dreamed up Alice. She had lived – a hundred years ago …..
Pamela Sykes tells this story so well. The characters were so believable, the details were so right, and I had to keep turning the pages.
I felt for Lucy from the start, as she was bereft, as she tried to fit so many of the things she loved from her home to her new life. And I loved so much about the way Aunt Olive had brought her up; I just wished that she hadn’t kept Lucy quite so close, that she had allowed her to see just a little of the modern world.
I understood her bewilderment in her new world, and her reluctance to let go of the way she had been taught to live.
Her family were good people, they really did their best to understand and to make Lucy part of their family, but at times she drove them to distraction.
But that wasn’t Lucy. That was Alice ….
The intensity of the story grows and grows.
And then, suddenly it is over. There is no final resolution, there are unanswered questions; but there is a sea change, and it is the right ending.
It leave the way open for a sequel; there is a sequel, but Open Library doesn’t have it and used copies are stupidly expensive.
But I think it might be better to just read this book, and then think about it, and the possibilities it opens up ….