The Novels of Elizabeth Enright: An Overview

by | Aug 30, 2020 | Books, Reading | 6 comments

I’ve been rereading the novels of Elizabeth Enright for the past few months, because they’re *so* re-readable and absolutely perfect for this time of year. For me, there is such a sense of delight in Enright’s familiar descriptions of summers in the countryside, of searching for butterflies and exploring old houses and finding arrowheads. The summers she spent on her uncle’s Wisconsin farm definitely influenced her writing and the way she observed nature and recorded it in both a realistic and whimsical manner.

In case you haven’t yet met her wondrous world of books, here’s an overview of her novels in chronological order of publication:


Thimble Summer (1938)

A Newbery medal winner, this slim book is perhaps the most well-known of Enright’s works. There are delicious moments like when Garnet and her best friend get accidentally locked in the library, and when Garnet goes to the county fair. A fresh breeze of a book! This is also her first novel for children.

The Sea Is All Around (1940)

A tribute to Maine and all its magic, this is a gentle story of a girl going to live with her aunt in a remote wilderness and making new friends. It has a delicate beauty to its gorgeous prose, and although it’s very hard to find, The Sea Is All Around is well worth the search!

The Saturdays (1941)

This book kicks off the Melendy Quartet series in grand style. At this point in Enright’s career, her writing was becoming a bit faster-paced, and the acceleration improves her already engaging prose. The four Melendy siblings pool their minimal allowances so that they can each enjoy a special Saturday outing of their own.

The Four-Story Mistake (1942)

The Melendys move from their New York City apartment building to a fabulous old home in the country, where they uncover a secret room that’s been boarded up for years—among other adventures! This story is even better on audio.

Then There Were Five (1944)

Here’s a quintessential portrait of a five children enjoying an old-fashioned summer—including stargazing, fruit canning, and all the glories of August—depicted with Enright’s usual stunning imagery.

Spiderweb for Two (1951)

My personal favorite of Enright’s books is this story you simply can’t put down, a gem that caps off the Melendy series. Part mystery and part ode to autumn, this book features the youngest of the four siblings on a humorous quest to unravel a mysterious string of riddles.

Gone-Away Lake (1957)

I recently revisited this classic tale of two cousins (and best friends) who discover a nearly abandoned resort community by the lake and some fascinating new friends who know all the stories of the village’s past.

Return to Gone-Away (1961)

We read this one last year as part of our Summer of Vintage Kid Lit, and I loved returning to Portia and Julian’s unforgettable adventures—this time as they explore and renovate a dilapidated mansion.


To say that I wish there were more Enright novels would be an understatement—there is just something so unique about her descriptions, metaphors, realistic characters, and settings.

I encourage you to pick up one of these in September! Summer is coming to a close, and it’s the perfect time to indulge in an Elizabeth Enright story. 🙂


Recently Read: The Kirsten series by Janet Shaw, The Meeting Place by Janette Oke and T. Davis Bunn, The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz

Currently Reading: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Cherry Ames: Department Store Nurse by Helen Wells


  1. Candace

    Enright’s books are jewels! I encouraged all my daughters to read them (most did) and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Back in the day, I always wanted to try petit fours and move to a huge house because of the Melendys.

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      They are indeed jewels, Candace! Thank you for reading 🙂 I love old houses and Enright writes about them so vividly.

  2. Dom

    I’m so pleased to see someone else who loves these books too! Looking forward to reading the one I missed!

  3. Sandi Parker

    I just finished re-reading the Melendy series. I was introduced to “The Saturdays” by my wonderful elderly 6th grade teacher who read the book to our class, way back in 1969. Do teachers still read to their classes? I hope so. I treasure these books – I have original hardbacks of “The Saturdays” and “And then there were 5” – I have paperback of the other two and hope to one day get them in hardback – but the ones I’ve found are very expensive!!

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      Thanks for your comment, Sandi! That’s awesome that you have original hardcovers!

  4. Bruce Adams

    Why were these wonderful stories never made into movies?


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