The Green Door

April 17, 2012

The Green Door is short and admonitory and — before I forget — by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman. It’s also a timeslip book, which is the reason you’re hearing about it; books in which exciting adventures make young girls decide to be more boring in the future have very little appeal for me.

Letitia Hopkins is, from the start, a bit of a drip. Her Aunt Peggy seems like a pretty nice adoptive parent, and she provides Letitia with a nice home, but, as Letitia doesn’t actually like to do anything but sit still and daydream, she’s dissatisfied. She’s also really curious about the green door in the cheese-room, which doesn’t seem to exist on the other side of the wall — curious enough that one day while Aunt Peggy is out, she steals the key and opens it.

She finds herself in the time of her great-great-great grandparents, and her great-great-great grandparents are the first people she meets when she gets there — them and their three daughters, Letitia’s great-great grandmother and great-great-great aunts. They are confused by the fact that her name — Letitia Hopkins — is the same as the name of the great-great-great grandmother and also the great great grandmother (and to be honest, so am I, because surnames are generally patrilineal) but they take her in and teach her how to cook and clean and sew and things.

In another book, this would be the making of Letitia. But no, she continues to be a drip. Then she meets a young boy she went sledding with once in her own time. He too has travelled into his family’s past, although he used a book rather than a door. He finds a corresponding book in his ancestors’ house, and Letitia finds a corresponding door in hers, and then they go home and eat cake and Letitia apologizes to her aunt Peggy, who says, “Well, it was a hard lesson to learn, and I hoped to spare you from it, but perhaps it was for the best.” Implying, I guess, that the Hopkins family uses their weird time traveling door for the purpose of keeping discontented children in line. Which seems like kind of a waste.

I guess I just don’t understand why anyone would want to write a children’s book about how miserable time travel is.


  1. I would have expected better from Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman, who was a contributor to “The Whole Family,” a novel written by 12 authors. She was assigned the character of the old-maid aunt and turned her into, as Wikipedia says, “an older but vibrant and sexually attractive woman who doesn’t mind getting noticed by Peggy’s fiancé,” which threw all the other authors for a loop! But I will read this one, because I like time travel.

    • Well, I think she might be a tiny bit tongue in cheek here. The Whole Family sounds really interesting. Is it good?

      • Yes, I liked it. I would love to hear your opinion of it. In case you don’t have enough reading to do!

  2. That does sound like a bit of a waste.

  3. So did she just really hate sewing or what?

    • That, or she was really fond of pound cake?

  4. My favourite MEWF book is The Heart’s Highway, a historical romance set in pre-revolutionary Virginia, USA.

    Despite the cheesy Harlequinesque title, it’s about a minor colonial rebellion incited by King Charles’ tyrannical over-taxation of tobacco crops, as viewed by Harry Wingfield, a convict tutor—a transported English gentleman serving out his sentence as a tutor for a wealthy colonial family—who is wholeheartedly in love with Mary Cavendish, his beautiful pupil. Harry is highly educated, very thoughtful and surprisingly compassionate (towards black people and the poor, at least, but his views on women are coloured by the condescension prevalent at the time). He’s loved Mary for years, but as an honourable English gentleman, he can’t act on his feelings, especially since she’s a rich plantation owner and he’s just a poor convict.

    But Mary has anti-Royalist leanings, and her determination to flout the King’s edict gives Harry his opportunity to not only win her heart, but redeem his honour too.

    You should read it, it’s an absolutely wonderful book. MEWF is really good at 17th-century dialogue and language. The learning curve is a little steep, but once you get into it you’ll want to read it over and over.

    • Sounds like fun. Thanks for recommending it.

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