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Linnets and Valerians

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,303 ratings  ·  168 reviews
The four Linnet children: Nan, Robert, Timothy and Betsy are sent to live with their strict grandmother while their father travels to Egypt. Locked away in separate rooms as punishment by their ruthless grandmother, the Linnets feel at once that their new life is unbearable—and decide to make their escape—out of the house, out of the garden and into the village. Commandeer ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 31st 2001 by Puffin (first published 1964)
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Average rating 4.16  · 
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 ·  2,303 ratings  ·  168 reviews


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Luisa Knight
Jan 23, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: children, fantasy
Before I get personal and share a standard I have that necessitated my one star rating, let me take a moment to be fair and mention the things I liked about this book. After all, not everyone shares my standard and you might like to know the other aspects of the book.

Goudge is a fantastic writer. Her characters, descriptions, sentences, word choice, even the way Uncle Ambrose talks, all of it is top-notch and mesmerizing. I am simply in love with her writing style and wish that other children's
...more
Lisa Vegan
I’ve long since given up my smug assertion that others my age were deprived by missing reading certain of my favorite childhood books. Well, I admit not that long, but it’s been about 16 months, which is when I joined Goodreads and found so many books that I’ve missed. Linnets and Valerians is one of those books. What’s sad for me is that it was published in Great Britain in 1964; I was 10 or 11. It’s that 9-10 or maybe 8-11 year old range that I would have adored this book; it’s a shame I wasn’ ...more
Jane
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was delighted when the Hesperus Press reissued ‘Linnets and Valerians’ a while ago, but I was disappointed that the title was changed to ‘The Runaways.’ It’s so much less intriguing and it rather misses the point; this not so much a book about running away as a book about finding the right place in the world, and playing the right role.

That was the only thing that disappointed me – everything else I loved!

The Linnet children were sent to live with their elderly grandmother when their father wa
...more
Abigail
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: (With Caveat) Young Readers Who Enjoy Fantasy-Tinged Fiction
So many of my friends seem to have read and loved this book, that when I first chucked it on Mt. TBR, I wrote: "All right, all right, enough already! Everyone seems to love this, and I trust Sherri, Bunny, Lisa, Jackie, Felicity, Melody, Emily, and Constance!" How right I was to trust these wonderful literary guides!

Linnets and Valerians is one of those books that would have been a five-star favorite, if I had encountered it as a child, and I have no doubt that I would have revisited it perennia
...more
Hilary
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book aloud to my daughter. Some parts felt like a bit of a slog but other parts were poetic and lovely. We liked the characters and the way that at the finish of the book, all the loose ends were picked up and tied together beautifully. The plot does beg the question, why didn't Ezra burn the dolls sooner ? Very glad to have read it though.
Louise / Daisy May Johnson
I have been in a bit of a slump with reading at the moment, reading books that have left me wanting, and reading books with a tight, tense, uncharitable air. This has not been productive; rather so, it has left me hungry for something. That hunger was sated, briefly, by my glorious Noel Streatfield but it stayed with me after that and it made itself known.

And when I feel like this, when there are things needling at the edge of my mind, or a closed, grey feeling to my senses, I need a very speci
...more
lucky little cat
I would have loved it when I was eight. Reading it now, I'm more than a bit skeptical and annoyed at
🌀 how happy all those devoted servants are to be working dawn to dusk
🌀 how transparent and clunky the plot is (hmm, there's a mute wild man living in a cave. wonder if he'll turn out to be anyone?)
🌀 how facile and arbitrary the magic is
🌀 how cloyingly anthropomorphic that poor pet monkey is. He understands English perfectly, so naturally he's pressed into service as one more happy tea-serving flu
...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
Sep 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ages 8-12
Recommended to Jackie "the Librarian" by: Sherri Murphy-Jacobs
Shelves: childrensbooks, magic
This is one of those stories about four children, in this case four brothers and sisters, getting into mischief in amusing ways. The descriptions take you to this English town in the countryside and give everything the possibility of magicalness.
Nan, Robert, Timothy, and Betsy escape the severe sternness of their grandmother's care, and somehow "borrow" a cart and horse that delivers them directly at their Uncle Ambrose's house, an uncle they've never met, an uncle with a pet owl named Hector w
...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I loved this book as a kid, and didn't realise then that this is the same EG who wrote A City of Bells. The Linnet kids are "not apologising children" who stick together and tell each other everything, probably because they've grown up in India where you don't apologise to servants and they didn't have anyone else of their social level to play with. And for once, all the kids have red hair of one shade or another, although apparently Nan's is "too sandy" for her to be beautiful. Betsy reminds on ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Published in America under the title Linnets and Valerians, this is a great comfort-read for bedtime reading. Goudge's framework for most of her stories is firmly in place: an Anglican vicar in a small town or village who is not as otherworldly as he seems, children who are taken in or otherwise "adopted" and educated at home by the old man, and a wealthy older woman (in this case only in about her 50s, which I suppose was indeed "elderly" in the 19th century) who has effectively "stopped time" ...more
Elisabeth
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. The sole reason for subtraction of a half-star is mixed feelings about some of the story's magical themes. Otherwise—well, the writing is simply lovely, the setting of a quaint English village delightful, and the characters absolutely charming and endearing. Elizabeth Goudge is just as good as E. Nesbit at writing from children's perspectives in a natural and hilarious way. (When I opened the book and saw it contained a Robert, I thought it would take me a little while to dissociate h ...more
Polly
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My favorite author, and one of her best children's books. Maybe the very best. Yes. Absolutely. Read it.

I would like to describe this book, it deserves it. It takes place, (I think) in the early 1800's. Four motherless British children are left with a martinet of a grandmother while their father goes to India with his regiment. They cannot bear life with Grandma and so one night they run away. Having no place to go, they "borrow" a pony and trap from outside a tavern. The pony knows exactly wher
...more
Mary Catelli
A light-hearted children's book, set in the late nineteenth century, with just a touch of magic.

It opens with a whopping coincidence, as the four siblings flee their grandmother and stumble on their Uncle Ambrose. But since they hate it there, and their father has left them there because he's in Egypt, their uncle takes them on, on the condition he can educate them.

Their further adventures involve their surprise at variable English weather (having grown up in India), an old woman nearly a reclus
...more
Judy
Maybe this rates 4 stars. I've read this at least four times, twice aloud. I know I would have given it 4 stars the first time I read it. The story is a nice balance of family, fantasy, characters (people with strong and somewhat odd personalities), and nature. Each of the kids has found something in the book that makes it a favorite.

Why then am I giving it 3 stars (actually 3.5)? Probably because there are so many good books for this age group that it's tough to make the judgment call.
Stephanie A.
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really only read it on the basis of author love, so I was entirely surprised by how instantly smitten I was with the family. C.S. Lewis levels of charm, but with much subtler aspects of magic and fantasy, which is always a plus. I'll never forget this title, either.
Tabitha
Aug 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Be still my heart! I've been walking on clouds while reading this gem. Everything around me is brighter and more beautiful, which usually happens when I read one of EG's novels, but this one is the most loveliest yet-- except for maybe the Little White Horse.
Francesca Forrest
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
(duplicates what's up on LJ)

I read Linnets and Valerians because I was intrigued and entranced by Sonya Taaffe's description about the gold-hearted, black-hearted, and silver people (quotation here), especially the silver people, descended from fairy folk.

That turned out to be a wrong reason to read the book, or maybe what I should say is, whatever nebulous concept, and therefore hope for the story, that I had, based on that description, it was misguided. Those concepts didn’t really figure in
...more
Eva
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brit-lit
I do love this book and it feels nice in a British Children Have Adventures way but the ever-present misogyny from their uncle is difficult to digest, and the weird marrying off of Nan to a man At Least ten years older the second she turns eighteen is bad, folks!
Rebecca
Jan 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite book bloggers, Cornflower of Cornflower Books, read Linnets and Valerians (rechristened "The Runaways") recently, and I vaguely remembered it from days of yore at the Alvin Bolster Ricker Memorial Library and Community House, so I got a copy through interlibrary loan and had at it. As I read, it came back to me--Goudge's great descriptions, her occasional sharp, witty comments, Uncle Absolom, complete with Hector the owl, Ezra the manservant, and the haunting combination of ma ...more
Kelly
I have mixed feelings about this book. It was a fun story, though the ending was obvious. It belongs in the same category as Edith Nesbit's books, and Edward Eager's. I really liked the children and Uncle Ambrose, and thought the characters were well-written.

The negatives? The denouement was painted with too broad a brush. We rushed through the conclusion much too quickly- almost like the author just wanted to get it over with already, or had a deadline to meet. Also, I didn't feel like Goudge d
...more
Charles
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2016
What a wonderful book. When I started it I puzzled over why I was reading a children's book, but I was soon enchanted. I have always loved the English village mysteries. They are created to fit snugly into a small circle. They are timeless. They are familiar, all with the same basic components.
This book follows all these tropes. Plus it has three kinds of magic. Maybe more. There is magic magic with spells and curses. Then there is a near fairy tale magic of place, weather and nature rampant.
...more
Jane
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Revisiting Elizabeth Goudge lately, and this was my favorite as a kid. Dare I say it? I liked this even better than C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. No uber-Christian message here, just a very well-told tale in the E. Nesbit tradition.
Qt
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
The writing is lovely and there are plenty of descriptions and interesting characters but for some reason I never got that into it.
Mythlee
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It has some elements of style, tone, and theme that are familiar to me from C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories. I see it, for example, in the narration, which often interprets events or offers judgment; in the ending (once evil is swiftly and thoroughly vanquished, overwhelming joy rushes in); and in the delight in landscape, in the land itself, and nature. (To be clear, I'm not saying that either was influenced by the other.*)

There are some delightfully funny moments and episodes throughout -- some de
...more
Siobhain
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As others have mentioned, the first part of this book is very enjoyable. However, I was a little on edge when mention was made of a book of spells and knew the "Linnets and Valerians" was not for my family when the children were directed to chant spells and pull pins out of voodoo dolls to undo the bad magic cast by someone else. In telling the children that what they were doing was okay, Ezra, a servant tells them, "But don't tell your uncle. He'd say it were superstition. I reckon the cleveres ...more
Sarah TheAromaofBooks
4.5/5

This book was so magical and precious and I was in love with everyone.
Julia
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ya, comfort-reads
Loved it, it's the sort of sweet British children's story that brings to mind Greene Knowe.
Clare Johnson
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Loved this! Wonderful characters, uplifting story.
Elsa K
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was sucked into this sweet story by one of my favorite authors. But I was left wanting more. I guess some kids books are too short and not filled in enough to fully enjoy as an adult. I wanted more of the story and development, it seemed to wrap up too suddenly when I was just getting enmeshed in the world and characters. If you like Elizabeth Goudge it has her beautiful writing with good themes. I just wish it went deeper.
Sara Whear
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Not my favorite book by Goudge. Not terrible, but it read like a much shorter story than it actually was (i.e. it felt underdeveloped for the number of pages) and it was very predictable. The villains were strange and I found the denouement super underwhelming.
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Elizabeth Goudge was an English author of novels, short stories and children's books.

Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge was born on 24 April 1900 in Wells, Somerset, in Tower House close by the cathedral in an area known as The Liberty, Her father, the Reverend Henry Leighton Goudge, taught in the cathedral school. Her mother was Miss Ida Collenette from the Channel Isles. Elizabeth was an only child.
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