The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
A Stitch In Time, which won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award in 1976, is a short children’s novel about an impressionable eleven year old called Maria who goes on holiday with her parents to Lyme Regis, on Dorset’s famous Jurassic Coast. Here she becomes greatly affected by a minor tragedy that happened a hundred years earlier in which a land slip on the coastal path resulted in death. Maria feels these past events impinging upon her present, to such an extent that she begins to identify with Harriet, the girl of her own age who was involved in the incident.
An only child, Maria is quiet, thoughtful and shy. Next door the Lucases, a large noisy, boisterous family are also holidaying, and when Martin Lucas, a boy of Maria’s age, strays into her garden, they quickly become friends. Soon the two families are getting involved in each other’s holiday plans and Maria is surprised to find herself enjoying the chaos that life with the Lucases brings. But at the same time her sense of the tragedy that haunts this place is growing. It all comes to a head in a joint family picnic at an isolated beach.
Like much of Penelope Lively’s writing, plot is considerably less important than character in this novel. She is concerned in particular, what goes on in the protagonist’s mind and her struggle to separate reality from imagination. It’s a novel about time, mutability, identity and memory, laced through with a gentle and appealing humour.