Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Enemy at Green Knowe

by L.M. Boston
Finished reading September 23, 2009

I called The Children of Green Knowe a creepy book, and so it was. An Enemy at Green Knowe is also a creepy book, but in a very different way. In the case of the first book, creepy meant disturbingly odd. This last book -the fifth in the Green Knowe series - is creepy! It's even pretty scary at times.

Tolly has returned and has become fast friends with Ping, who is now living at Green Knowe as well. One afternoon, Mrs. Oldknowe tells the boys one of her stories about the past inhabitants of the house. In 1630 Dr. Wolfgang Vogel, a famous scholar and alchemist, has been called to Green Knowe to tutor Roger, the sickly son of Squire and Mrs. Oldknowe. Vogel is a mysterious, disturbing man and Roger comes to dislike him. He wishes for his old tutor, the vicar Piers Madely. Stories about Dr. Vogel begin circulating among the locals. Some say that they've seen him lurking about at night. Others say that a hooded figure had come to a woman, offering to buy her stillborn baby for a piece of gold. Has Vogel been looking for bodies to use in his black magic? Roger's illness becomes worse and he tearfully begs his parents to take him away from Dr. Vogel. They finally relent. A week after Roger's departure, Dr. Vogel sends for Piers Madely to come to him immediately.

"He found Dr. Vogel in a lamentable state, hardly recognizable. He had had no sleep for nights on end. He was unbrushed, and his clothes were torn as if from a fight. He said that he wished to make a confession, and as he stammered it out, he behaved as if the room were full of threatening enemies..."

After Vogel tells Madely what's troubling him, the vicar tells him to burn all of his books and certain of his belongings. They begin burning the books.

"Dr. Vogel repeatedly cried out, 'Make haste! Before the moon rises,' and he poured pitch and tallow into the fire...Once Dr. Vogel saw in the firelight a book lying open and unburnt, showing a page of intricate diagrams, and he let out a scream and pitch-forked it into the heart of the flames. Finally there was nothing but a glowing mass. The Doctor sank exhausted on the threshhold of the vault, his head in his hands. Piers managed to say a compassionate, 'Now peace be with you as your trust is in God'... 'Alas!' groaned Dr. Vogel, pointing at the smoldering books and looking not less woeful because his exhausted eyes were straying separately. 'What's thought cannot be unthought.' "

Two hours later, Piers Madely hears a scream coming from Green Knowe, across the meadows from his house. Dr. Vogel was never heard from again.

As with many of Grandmother Oldknowe's stories, this one comes back to them in the form of Melanie Powers, a scholar researching English private libraries. She has come to Green Knowe to find a certain very rare old manuscript belonging to Dr. Wolfgang Vogel. Grandmother invites her to tea, but tells her that Vogels books were all burnt. Powers won't be dissuaded. Her curiosity about the house and her strange manner disturb Tolly and Ping who suspect her of being a witch.

Melanie Powers becomes less friendly and begins to show her true colors as she stops at nothing to find Vogel's missing volume. Curses befall the Green Knowe household and Tolly and Ping begin to fight back.

This is an exciting chapter in the Green Knowe series. Melanie Powers is genuinely a creepy, eerie character. Tolly has grown out of the milquetoast boy of the first two books. Ping, as always, is an interesting character. Even Hanno makes somewhat of an appearance.

There's something for everyone in the Green Knowe series.

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