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GONE AWAY by Ruth Tomalin



Pub Date: June 1st, 1979
Publisher: Faber & Faber--dist. by Merrimack

A ghost for companionship is just one of the small entrancements in this story of 1933 Surrey--a setting that takse some accommodating to, but which won't daunt readers of, say, E. Nesbit. The book also has a satisfying way of unfolding episode by fully-formed episode, not merely move by move. Francie is intrigued, first, by the notion that Goneaway Farm, her home, may have been named for a medieval family that went off to the Alchester Fair and never returned--and fearful for her own good reasons of going off to Alchester to school. But a visit to take the entrance test (a cheerful contretemps) wins her over; and setting out in her uniform the first morning, even being snubbed by the seniors as a first-former, is exciting: ""she was really in a school story."" The crucial test, though, is boarding at Falcon House. Why does the dog, Rasselas, perk up at night on the landing? Why does the class tormentor say ""I wouldn't be you for anything""? Why do the other girls clam up? Yes, Falcon House is reputed to be haunted; and she, Francie, must go back there-she sees official ""first friend"" Verity thinking. But, alone and lonely, she finds Rasselas teasing her, drawing her into a game with ""it""; and suddenly, comfortingly, the others are on the outside. It's this secret comradeship, thereafter, that she doesn't want to give up--not to avidly curious Verity, not to her nice prosaic parents, not to new-and-better friend Geraldine's wise psychological interpretations, not even to the possibility that another child on-the-loose may be the fugitive child ""ghost."" For Francie of course is convinced--with some help from a school lesson on the Black Death--that ""it"" is the child who once went away from Goneaway Farm; and the ending leaves her with the option of thinking so. Nicely nuanced, lively, and unpretentiously literate.