THE HALCYON ISLAND by Anne Knowles

THE HALCYON ISLAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

On the surface, nothing happens during these two, quiet English summer weeks on and around a river except that twelve-year-old Ken overcomes his fear of the water, learns to handle boats and to swim--by very obvious steps. And youngsters who pant for action are apt to give up when they find that Ken, left with housekeeper Mrs. Morris while his parents attend to some family business, is still marking time (""Happy, in a low-key, thoughtful way"") on page 15, and still pondering the river, just a little attracted now (""rather like going to the dentist when you hadn't made an appointment""), on page 25. At the same time, kids who expect plot-leads to lead somewhere will be disconcerted when they discover, for instance, that Mrs. Morris' seafaring son never does turn up. He, like much else, is simply part of the book's fabric--implicitly propelling Ken toward oneness with the watery element and personal independence. The problem has been his father's disgust at Ken's phobia; and the solution turns, after some tacit encouragement from Mrs. M., on water-rat Giles, the boy Ken meets when he does warily take out the Lawnside punt. Giles, as perceptive and tactful in his way as Mrs. M., starts Ken thrashing about in a shallow pool, putting his face in the writer like ""an otter,"" etc. But his success as Ken's swimming and boating instructor owes as much to Ken's trust in him as to Giles' skill. Their shared days bring accidents averted, assorted boaters encountered, kingfishers and swans observed--all in passing; and awareness of transient happiness, ""a comforting rather than a melancholy thought."" Ken has wondered about Giles--supposedly, his father is off with his two younger brothers. Then he hears the horrifying stow of a boy who couldn't save his father and his two brothers from drowning. And then Giles is gone, as Ken had expected. When his parents return, it's to see--in amazement--Ken deftly paddling home. For those susceptible to nuances of writing and absorption in the moment, a potentially rewarding experience--and certainly programmed for anyone who shares Ken's fear.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row