Gone-Away Lake

by Elizabeth Enright

Other authorsJoe & Beth Krush (Illustrator)
Paperback, 2000



Local notes

PB Enr




HMH Books for Young Readers (2000), Edition: First, 272 pages


Portia and her cousin Julian discover adventure in a hidden colony of forgotten summer houses on the shores of a swampy lake.



Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

272 p.; 5.13 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Homeschoolbookreview
Ten-year-old Portia Blake and her six-year-old brother Foster are riding a train all by themselves on their way to spend their summer vacation with their Uncle Jake, Aunt Hilda, and cousin Julian Jarman. The Blake parents normally go with them, but Mother and Father will be in Europe until August.
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The Jarmans have recently purchased a house in the country, so Julian and Portia spend their days exploring, while Foster finds a similarly-aged friend in the Jarman’s neighbor Davey Gayson to play with. One day the older kids discover an abandoned Victorian resort community next to a bog. It’s like a ghost town. They learn that it used to be called Tarrigo Lake, but after the lake dried up, the homes were abandoned and it became known as Gone-Away Lake. They might even be able to use one for a clubhouse, so they decide to keep it a secret just between the two of them, at least for a while.

However, as the two explore, they hear a loud, booming voice coming out from one of the houses. It turns out to be a radio, and they learn that the old village has not been completely abandoned. Elderly siblings Mr. Pindar Payton and Mrs. Lionel Alexis (Minnehaha) Cheever have returned and still live there. But who are they? And can they be trusted? I really liked this book. I found it interesting that on one website, out of 76 reader reviews, 61, the vast majority, gave the book five stars, whereas five gave it one star. Those who did not like the book had two complaints. The first was that it has no plot and is too boring. I guess that this doesn’t surprise me coming from children, and adults with the attention span of children, who have been raised on half-hour television sitcoms, video games, and the inanity of Harry Potter. The second complaint was that it is “way too happy,” that it is just “nice people enjoying each other's company and having fun,” that it doesn’t have enough problems and conflict. My, my! I guess there must be more of a market for morbid, depressing children’s literature than I would have thought. I’ll take “happy” any day, thank you. The only thing that I don’t like about the Scholastic edition that I bought used is the very modern (i.e., 1980-ish) cover illustration.

The book won a 1958 Newbery Honor award for author Elizabeth Enright, who already had a Newbery Medal for her 1938 Thimble Summer. Gone-Away Lake is a charming story. I especially appreciate the way that family is portrayed. “Aunt Hilda was Portia’s third favorite woman in the world. First came her mother, naturally, and after that came Miss Hempel, her English teacher” (p. 22). The only downside is that there is a lot of common euphemisms (gosh, heck, gee, golly, doggone it, confounded, darn, and darnation), and some instances of pipe smoking occur. Most people will not have much of a problem with either of these things, but some parents would probably like to know them ahead of time. In addition to a pleasant plot with its gentle humor, the stories told by Mrs. Cheever and Mr. Payton about the days when the bog was a lake, which are interspersed with the modern-day adventures of Portia and Julian, illustrate how important the past is, even to children. One reviewer called it an “Odd story” that “may seem dated but it has an almost out-of-time quality that makes it accessible to modern readers.” There is a sequel, Return to Gone-Away, published in 1961, in which the Blake family buys and restores a house at Gone-Away.
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LibraryThing member Bduke
A sweet children's book about a simpler time and place. Imagine a world where children could pack a lunch, walk out of the house and be gone for the whole day exploring and playing without any adult worrying or wondering. And how sad that our children and grandchildren will never have that freedom.
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So it's nice to have a book that shows us what it used to be like.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
First re-read of this in probably a decade. I remembered loving it, and I remembered lots besides, but I did not remember it being howlingly funny. Which it is.

Coming to this straight from a re-read of Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books, I find myself unsurprised that I grew up with a deep and
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abiding love for the written word. As a kid, I was reading some fine, fine writers all unaware. A pause, then, for a moment of gratitude to Mrs. Borski the iron-grey librarian who steered my little canoe so wisely and well...

So, Gone-Away Lake. Not a lake any more, but a swampy, boggy ruin inhabited by two of the most delightful old persons ever. The story is set in the late fifties, but so many flashbacks and time capsules that it transcends dating and becomes something more. Everyone should read this. If you've already read it, you should read it again.

Some of the lines that made me laugh aloud:

"Julian always said that Foster's two main interests were Outer Space and inner pie."

"First thing we'd do when we got to [the rock:] was climb up on it and eat whatever we'd swiped from the pantry or wheedled out of the cook. In those days we ate steadily, like cattle, and everything agreed with us."

"Rain affects small boys like strong coffee, or adrenalin, or snuff. Never saw it fail. Turns them into howling wildernesses."

"He was a tall boy with curly brown hair; he was going to be very handsome, but he didn't know it yet. Neither did anybody else."
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LibraryThing member delphica
Absolutely delightful. While visiting her family in the country, Portia and her cousin discover the site of a former lake, now a boggy swamp, complete with abandoned Victorian summer homes. The only inhabitants are an elderly brother and sister, who returned to live in their former childhood home.
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What could be better than having an entire summer to explore the natural wildlife of a swamp, listen to stories about the glory days of the lake, and make a clubhouse in an old attic? Enright is an amazing writer and this book manages to remain fresh-sounding and not at all dated (although I can't help doing all the math in order to appreciate just how old the houses would be now!)
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LibraryThing member busyme
I read this book during a summer reading program when I was a child. After all the years, I couldn't remember the name, and then I found it on a website, and immediately reserved them at my public library. My 10 year old LOVED them!
LibraryThing member jfoster_sf
This was a great, easy going summer book about a boy and a girl (cousins) who go off exploring and discover a ghost town of houses on the edge of a swamp. They meet two elderly people who grew up spending their summers there, and explain to the children that the swamp used to be a beautiful lake
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before a dam was built a few miles away. The kids are so taken with the two older people (who they later call aunt and uncle) that they sneak off away daily to visit their secret place, which always provides new things to do and to discover. A great family summer story--very mellow, though, so I don't recommend it to people looking for any kind of adventure or fantasy; just a fun old fashioned story.
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LibraryThing member bexaplex
Portia and her brother Foster spend the summer with their aunt and uncle in the country, discovering, with cousin Julian, a decrepit set of lake houses abandoned when the lake dried up into a swamp.

I liked this book immediately, despite never having read it pre-adulthood. Who doesn't imagine having
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the best summer of their lives exploring fully-furnished abandoned ancient houses? The swamp adds more fun: the kids are immediately attracted to frogs, butterflies, red-winged blackbirds and tromping around in the mud.
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LibraryThing member ashleyk44
One of my absolute favorites from childhood. It was also probably the beginning of my love for all things Victorian, as odd a starting point as it may be. I fell in love with the idea of finding a little town that (although only inhabited by two people) still functions like it did nearly a century
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ago. I think I even decided that I would name my future children Minnehaha and Pindar, although now I see that may not be such a good idea.
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LibraryThing member drmaf
A book I loved as a child, which I have never seen since unfortunately. My efforts to find a copy secondhand and have come to nothing and I fear i will never see it again. Rating it solely on memory, a terriffic book about childhood adventure, warm and and endearing.
LibraryThing member MereYom
Not much depth to this book. I found it to be a tedious story. My children, who normally beg me to read aloud to them, simply were bored with this book.
LibraryThing member kelseymajor
Gone-Away Lake is a fun and adventurous story about a brother and sister from the city taking the train to spend the summer with their country cousin. The children discover and old, mostly abandoned summer colony of houses near a swamp that once was a lake. The meet and elderly sister and brother,
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Minnehaha Cheever and Pindar Payton who live in the old homes where they used to spend their summers years and years go. The story follows the young children and their adventures at Gone-Away Lake.
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LibraryThing member JenJ.
Listened to Listen and Live's eAudio production narrated by Colleen Delany.

Delany did a fine job on the narration although her voices for the younger boys were not my favorites. The gender roles are pretty dated, but that's a product of its time. I can't decide if this would hold up alright for
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today's kids or not. I think for kids who like stories of the past it would probably still work. I listened to this over the course of a couple months in between other things while working on chores and such and the episodic structure made that reasonable. This would work well on a list of gentle reads and would be a good nighttime read aloud for kids not ready to read chapter books on their own.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Portia and her brother travel by train to visit her cousin, Julian. Portia and Julian love exploring the new place, and come across a bog and an elderly brother and sister pair who live in a "ghost town" that used to be a community when the bog was a lake and Mrs. Minnehaha Cheever and Mr. Pindar
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Payton were young. The four become fast friends, and Portia and Julian have adventures all summer.

This Newbery Honor was a charming story I would have loved as a child. Portia and Julian have a lot of freedom to go off in the woods, bring a lunch, and spend a lot of time without adult supervision and I wonder what today's kids would think of that. The intergenerational relationships were really sweet and well executed. I could see this being a good readalike for The Penderwicks or The Moffats.
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LibraryThing member antiquary
An enjoyable book by the author of the Melendy (Saturdays) series. Two children explore a former lake (now swamp) and the remains of the once-fashionable summer houses on its banks, notably the Vila Caprice.
LibraryThing member satyridae
Revisited this all-time favorite on audio during a road trip. I was stunned to learn that even though I reread it often, and I've read it countless times to my son, my husband had never heard of it. He loved it- to no one's surprise. What's not to love? It's hilarious, it's poignant, it's got
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howling wildernesses, outer space and inner pie. It's got The Gulper. So well-written, so evocative.
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LibraryThing member Jen-the-Librarian
One of my favorite books from childhood.
LibraryThing member Cheryl_in_CC_NV
This did not ring any bells - apparently I never read it as a child even though I've treasured other books by the author. I would've loved it even more then, I'm sure, but even now it was definitely worth the couple hours spent there. I do remember loving the illustrative style of Beth and Joe
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Krush - too bad this edition's cover is weird. The mystery is predominant, but the characters are well-developed, too.
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LibraryThing member jessiejluna
Originally written in the 50's, a 13 year old girl and her younger brother go to visit their cousin in the country for the summer. She and her cousin (14 yrs) discover a dried-up lake turned into a swamp while exploring the woods behind his new house. The also find old falling down houses from the
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turn of the century, including an elderly brother and sister who still inhabit the houses.
This story was hard for me to get through, although it is not very long. I think it would appeal to some kids' sense of adventure and discovery, but the language and the dialog is very outdated. The characters are well-written and the descriptions are fine, also there are a few illustrations per chapter. The chapters are not short either. As far as award winners go, I would skip this one in the future.
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LibraryThing member juniperSun
Eleven-year-old Portia is taking the train with her younger brother Foster to their Aunt & Uncle's farm for their usual summer vacation. Her cousin Julian shares her interest in exploring outdoors, and knows quite a lot of natural history. They come across a swamp, and meet some elderly siblings
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living an old-fashioned existence, without electricity or running water, in their former family lake homes. They are fascinating characters, and sometimes an entire chapter consists of one of the elders telling a story about their childhood. Mrs. Cheever shares her knowledge of swamp plants, "Pin" Peyton lets them help with the goats and chickens, and they let the 2 youngsters make a clubhouse out of another lake home. Portia and Julian keep their activities a secret, but Foster follows them one day and gets stuck in the swamp.
Portia starts out as a strong character, but by the end of the book she is devoting her time to play housekeeping and an interest in dolls, having fallen into stereotyped roles once another neighbor girl joins them. In general, though, I think this book presents a summer vacation that most kids would be envious of, and would enjoy reading about.
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(237 ratings; 4.1)
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