New Read: The Enchanted Castle

Back in June, I found myself craving a lighter classic to continue my Classics Club challenge. So I reached for The Enchanted Castle by E Nesbit, a lesser known example of Nesbit’s many classic children’s novels, that was first published in 1907. I adore her best known work, The Railway Children and I also really enjoyed Five Children and It and the other books in her magical Psammead series, which meant I had high expectations for this.

Similar to the Psammead series, The Enchanted Castle starts with a group of Edwardian children being, rather improbably, left to their own devices. In this case the children are siblings Jerry, Jimmy, and Cathy, who find themselves stuck at school over the summer holidays, with only the French governess and the maid, after a measles outbreak at home. Determined not to let this ruin their summer, Jerry sweet-talks the adults into allowing them to set off alone, with a picnic, for a jolly good adventure. Where upon they stumble across a mysterious castle with a beautiful princess asleep in the garden.

Once they awake the princess, she takes them on a tour of the castle and tells them it is full of magic, and they almost believe her, but Jimmy, and myself, immediately think something seems fishy. It is only when the magic ring she is showing them really turns her invisible and she gets stuck that way, that she panics and admits she is really the housekeeper’s niece, Mabel, and was just playing! What follows is a rather hodge-podge mix of adventures as the children try to get Mabel out of trouble and along the way discover the many other magical powers the ring possesses.

The fantastical scrapes and delights the children get themselves into due to careless wishes, is all very reminiscent of those in Five Children and It. But for me it just wasn’t half as much fun with them just wishing while wearing the ring, then it was having to go visit the wonderfully cantankerous sand-fairy, ‘It’! Some great fun was still had though, as they caught thieves whilst invisible; frolicked with statues by night and brought inanimate objects to life. However, due to the nature of the ring randomly granting wishes, the story hopped around a fair bit and so didn’t seem to flow as well as previous Nesbit stories I have enjoyed.

As for the children, there was the charming Gerald (Jerry), the no-flies-on-me Jimmy and the girls – I say the girls because sadly Cathy and Mabel were too similar and often blended into one for me. A bit of a let down when I think of the believable and endearing characters of Roberta, Phyllis and Peter in The Railway Children. On the other hand, I had a similar complaint about the children being rather one-dimensional in Five Children and It too, but then that book had the larger-than-life ‘It’ to save the day! All in all, Jerry, Jimmy and the girls were a sweet, but forgettable group of children to read about.

Overall, The Enchanted Castle was the lighter classic I was hoping for, with its blend of magic, adventure and old-fashioned ideals. Unfortunately, this is just not Nesbit’s best work I have read. I still look forward to reading more by Nesbit – Maybe I should try some of her books for adults next? Okay read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Nesbit? Could you recommend one of her adult novels?

This is book 4/50 for my Classics Club II reading challenge.

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12 thoughts on “New Read: The Enchanted Castle

  1. I still haven’t read Five Children and It tbh so I should really go and find my copy of that one first.
    Glad this was the sort of read you were in the mood for
    Lynn 😀

  2. I’ve only read The Railway Children and a long time ago; I always forget she wrote the others, they’re so different. Very good point about the characters in the different books. I hadn’t thought of them in terms of development but you’re right. The Railway Children had to be more focused on them because it was a more bog-standard story, but the magic in the other books is more important there than the children themselves.

    That she wrote adult novels is news to me so I can’t recommend any, but I’m certainly going to look them up!

    1. Charlie, you’ve hit the nail on the head there: Nesbit probably did focus more on the characters in The Railway Children and less in Five Children and It and the other fantasy novels as they had the magic as the focus instead. If you discover any of her adult novels that sound good let me know! 🙂

  3. This is one that I’ve had on my shelf since I was a girl but I never finished it. Still, in the right mood, I might yet pick it up. I did read Five Children and It, but as an adult, and it was one of those reads that was satisfactory but I knew I would have enjoyed it more as a younger reader. I have heard her adult novel, The Lark, recommended highly, but I haven’t read it myself. I happen to have the publisher’s page open for another purpose today, so here’s the link: http://www.deanstreetpress.co.uk/main/middlebrow

    1. Thank you for the recommendation B.I.P, I will definitely look up The Lark. The same as you I have read all of Nesbit’s children’s novels as an adult and am a little sad, because I think I would have loved them even more as a child.

  4. I have loved the Nesbit books I have read but I think I will skip this one. Unless one day I need something REALLY light-;)

  5. I read The Railway Children and the first two Psammead novels as a child and really enjoyed them, but I haven’t read this one. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like it as much as the others, but it sounds as though it was still fun to read at times. If you do try one of her adult novels I’ll be interested to know what you think as I am curious about them too.

  6. I haven’t read any book by Nesbit but these stories sound enchanting even for adults. I can’t imagine how magical they must seem to children! 🙂 Despite this one not being as strong as her previous works, you seem to have had a good time with it. 🙂

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