I had never heard of this book, but it seems to be a standard in US education, and it was recommended as one of the Great Middle Grade Reads, so I thought I’d read it.
What a delight! Charming, beautifully written, with elegant prose evoking the heat and dust of a very hot summer, and a story that’s not quite a fairy-tale. A family took a drink from a spring in a wood, and found they didn’t age… which sounds good, but leads to its own problems. They always had to move on before their neighbours got too suspicious. Families for the sons were out of the question. And eventually the sons left home, since a seventeen year old who has actually lived for eighty years does not need to be tied to his parents any more than they wish him to be always under their feet. But they have a reunion on a regular basis, and one such reunion happens to be witnessed by a ten year old girl. And what happens next is witnessed by a mysterious stranger, who has some sort of connection to our everlasting Tuck family.
Most of the story revolves around the Tucks’ desire to explain to the girl why she should never reveal their secret. This narrative draws you in, as softly and gently as the countryside lazing in the August heat. The description of the lake is stupendous. I was taken back to a lake in Wisconsin where I did summer camp, and canoeing at dusk watching a blue heron tackle a frog. But the stranger brings danger, and the Tucks’ world is about to turn head over heels. The girl realises the enormity of their situation, and finds a solution, demonstrating huge personal growth.
I can understand why it is a perennial favourite for class discussion, since there are so many issues and angles which stimulate thought and examination of one’s own beliefs and values. I think more British schools should discover it. If it’s not already considered a classic, it should be.