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Sometimes Charlotte now, sometimes Clare in 1918, borne back and forth by the boarding school cot. . . "are we so very alike? Were you some particular person only because people recognized you as that?" Then, on a day when Charlotte is Clare (and Clare is Charlotte), she and Clare's younger sister Emily, who knows, must move from the dormitory to lodgings and she must remain in the past. Which, in living with the stuffy Chisel-Browns, their fluttery spinster daughter Agnes and her memories of dead brother Arthur, becomes very much her world: playing with their spillikins and marbles, she might be Agnes indulging Arthur as she is Clare coping with cheeky Emily as she has been older sister to Emma at home. But, she learns from Agnes, Arthur was less than a hero and not unlike Charlotte: the pattern is broken. On Armistice night, literally bedlam, the girls go out alone; as punishment, they are recalled to the dormitory where Charlotte will be in a position to change places with Clare. She leaves with some regret, returns with some relief: schoolmate Margaret, the brilliant erratic one, has known the difference though she cannot define it. And they could not have been alter egos, older enigmatic Sarah Reynolds unwittingly discloses: Clare had died of flu at the war's end and Emily, Sarah's mother, had been waiting for Charlotte to arrive. As she now writes her, enclosing Agnes' and Arthur's playthings. This fills in for Charlotte the time spent by Emma in Winter (1966), which also embodies a time-spanning search-for-self. But Charlotte Sometimes is less involuted; less obsessed, less somber than either Emma or its predecessor The Summer Birds; girls can read it (without knowing the others) as a ghost story laced with boarding school fiendishness and healthy who-am-I's.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1969
ISBN: 978-1-68137-104-7
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: New York Review Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1969


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