The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell

As soon as she arrives in Wellow, Polly Flint knows there is magic in the place. And she should know, because she is an unusual girl who can see things others can’t. She seems to be able to call up a village that had disappeared from the face of the earth – and the people who lived in it, as they slip in and out of time.

Helen Cresswell was a staple of my childhood back in the day, this book, and Moondial were both wonderful and their accompanying TV shows were just as compelling.  Not only did Helen Cresswell  create compelling stories but she was a local author, and set this story in the grounds of Rufford Abbey, a place I last went to last Christmas, and had at least three school trips to, as well.

The story is crammed full with so many wonderful ideas, especially for the minds of children. There is a feeling of history, tradition passed down – the inherent idea of magic that lurks behind so much of it – and of the weight of time and our participation in it.

Time plays a huge part in the book, both as a barrier, and a contributor to the sense of dislocation felt throughout, but also to the passing of days and the rhythm of the seasons. It seems as important for Polly to understand what isn’t there and exists, as it is to interpret what is present and can be seen.

Imagination as you would expect plays a huge role, especially for Polly, her capacity for conjuring up up other worlds gives her freedom from the mundaneness of life.  Her capacity for whimsy leads her out of isolation and into adventure in nature. Her freedom to roam – which will probably seem unreal to many children these days will also appeal to them.

Although I love this book there was one slight annoyance, and that was the ending which wrapped up a little too quickly for me. I would have preferred a bit more fleshing out of the conclusion after all the build up.  It was still a perfectly acceptable conclusion to the book, and one I will gladly read for a fourth time but a little bit more would have made me happier.

The Secret World of Polly Flint is a lovely book for all ages.  The story weaves a real feel of the sense of participation that we have in the present, both with each other and the contribution we make to our history.  It’s good escapist fun with a few local colloquialisms thrown in bewilder those not of these parts.  Highly recommended.

22 Replies to “The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell”

    1. Thank you. It’s all I’ve really read in the last few weeks. I’ve been so busy with work and baby false alarms and such like. I hope to be much more focused when things calm down somewhat.

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  1. If you want to read about more secrets and alternative lives, read “The Secret Life of Walter MItty,” a bittersweet story about an ordinary, sort of boring and unremarkable middle-class middle-aged man who leads an adventurous and fearsome secret life. Think: the illustrations of James Thurber, the cartoons in which the house is shaped like the wife who is about to devour the man getting ready to enter the front door! Or, failing that, “The Dream Life of Balso Snell,” for something completely different. (I guess you won’t have too much time for reading soon, and you and Crissy are counting the days.)

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    1. I’ve heard but not read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, as for the others…I once again feel I am lacking knowledge and must squeeze more time into exploring. It’s been mental at work of late with all the final enrolments but hopefully it will slow down in the next month or so, so I can focus on writing and family more, not that life is ever going to be that predictable.

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  2. Excellent review, Ste J! I loved Helen Cresswell as a girl and still have my copies of Polly Flint and Moondial somewhere. I’ve probably got Lizzie Dripping and The Bagthorpes too; I must go in search of them.

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  3. Someone said, not me, that the great literary classics are for both children and adults. These sound good, will try to check it out.

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    1. If you like to be a littler bewildered by colloquialisms, which you then adopt and try and get them popular in your back garden then this one is definitely recommended.

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      1. Are you warning me that I might pick up assorted “British” speech impediments. Isn’t it bad enough I have a Bronx accent?

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        1. I think putting the two together could create a wholly enigmatic and surprisingly colourful new dialect that will take the world by storm.

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    1. I need to pick up The Bagthorpes series, I used to get it out of the library all the time as a child but can’t remember too much about it.

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