A Delightful Discovery for “Gone-Away Lake” Fans?
Earlier this year, I contacted the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota to do some research on two of my favorite authors, Maud Hart Lovelace and Elizabeth Enright. I was particularly curious about early drafts of Enright’s Melendy or Gone-Away Lake novels. Shortly afterward I received scans of a few sheets of Enright’s handwriting—some research notes about plants and flowers, along with a list of all the turn-of-the-century families mentioned in the two Gone-Away novels. I also received a jotted-down scene from a folder labeled Return to Gone-Away depicting Portia and Julian talking, so I assumed it was a piece of an early draft.
Just recently, I was enjoying a re-read of Return to Gone-Away (RtGA) when I remembered that scene from the Kerlan files. Curious to compare it to the final edition, I reopened my file—and as I read it again, this time more slowly, I realized something odd. The section did not appear in RtGA—it was an opening scene, an introduction to the characters but also to the events of RtGA. It also included Portia’s excitement at getting to stay at Gone-Away all winter, and her younger brother Foster reminds her that their house is now called “Amberside.” As you may recall, the Blake family’s decision to remain in the country for the winter—and to name their new house Amberside—were made in the final few pages of RtGA.
My best guess is that this could be the draft of an opening to an unpublished third installment in the Gone-Away series!
RtGA was the last realistic children’s novel that Enright wrote, and it was published in 1961. Could it be that she had initially planned to write another story about the beloved Gone-Away characters? Perhaps she wondered if there would be enough material for a third story, or maybe she decided to instead work on the two fantasy stories she published in 1963 and 1965.
In any event, this scene definitely has Enright’s typical charm, such as this delightful paragraph:
“Gone-Away Lake, which truly had once been a lake but was now a great rustling swamp, bordered on one shore with the conglomeration of old decaying houses. It was hard to believe that they had once been young, lively resort houses when Gone-Away had been Tarrigo Lake and people came to spend their summers here, with children shouting, dogs barking, boats sailing, clotheslines blowing, kites flying …”
Enright’s humor is present, too—Portia is “delighted” to hear that Gone-Away winters can get excruciatingly cold. “Thirty below is better than we ever got; it’s exciting!”
And here are the Blake children’s plans for new pets: “Portia secretly planned to offer sanctuary to a kitten or two later on and possibly a parakeet, as well. In a city apartment it was hard to have a spread of pets—but in the country, well … Foster planned a fish tank.”
I’m happily intrigued by this discovery—which I’m sure the Melendy or Gone-Away children would find equally exciting. 🙂 Now I wonder if any more pages of this manuscript might exist, if indeed it was the start of a third book in the series. Could it be that more of Enright’s draft is still tucked away somewhere, waiting to be found?