A Delightful Discovery for “Gone-Away Lake” Fans?

by | Nov 10, 2021 | Books, Reading | 5 comments

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My best guess is that this could be the draft of an opening to an unpublished third installment in the Gone-Away series!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?


  1. Susan Caraccio

    I love those books. Ive got a follow on I planned when the children go there as adults and set up a commune…

    • Stephen C. Jett

      I am finishing up a monograph on Enright and Goneaway. Last year, I, too, worked with the Enright materials at the Kerlan Collection, but somehow I missed the ms. You quote. What a nice find!

  2. Robert K Henderson

    Interesting thing about Gone Away Lake, which I just re-read for the first time in 50 years: the author never explains where the lake went. I could have sworn she did. Must’ve been my dad, at some point when I was talking about the book, who told me that a dam was apparently built upstream, which choked off and may have outright diverted the flow away from the lake, leaving a boggy swamp.

    I also remember him telling me that such things were common, and that often there were in fact vacation properties left far from the shore they were meant to front, leading to a ghost-town effect.

    Ironically, the same thing is happening again today, only now it’s houses and communities built on reservoirs, that with the movement to remove dams and restore habitat, suddenly find themselves high and dry on less-than prime real estate.

    Anyway, that was one discovery I made about this all-time favourite book in the re-reading. I was sure Ms. Enright mentioned a dam somewhere.

    Thanks for the post! I’m kind of on a “re-visit the favourite childhood reads” kick these days, and greatly enjoying the surfing I get in afterward. (Something no-one on earth imagined when I first read them.)

    • Ross Dekle

      Actually, in Gone Away Lake, when they first meet, Aunt Minnehaha tells Portia and Julian that they believe the dwindling of the lake began in 1903 when the dam was built at Corinth. By 1906, there was nothing left but mud. In real life, there is a dam at Corinth NY.

  3. Alison Fujito

    Elizabeth Enright was and still is one of my favorite authors! I’d love to see a copy of those scans, if you could share them. Did you ever find any more pages?


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