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Ellen Sometimes

September 20, 2007

On the subject of Narnia and other great books from childhood…

I’ve always had a brief memory of reading a book about a girl in boarding school who wakes up essentially in the shoes of another girl, and each day switches back between time in the early 1900s and the 1960’s. I recall liking it, but I think it was a library book, so I only read it once or twice. When I was in college, I was a fan of The Cure.  My favorite song of theirs was and is “Charlotte Sometimes”. It’s their typical fare, Gothic and haunting. A couple of months ago I was up at night with a cranky infant, and (among other things) decided to Google the song and see if there was any background on what the lyrics meant. It always seemed like Charlotte in the song was unhappy, but I was not sure why.

Lo and behold Google informed me that the song was actually based on the book “Charlotte Sometimes” by Penelope Farmer.   The very book I read as a kid. Who would have imagined the Cure writing a song about a book a teenage girl would readl?  I wanted to read the book again and found it through interlibrary loan.  I have to confess that it’s an even better read as an adult. Reminds me of Narnia almost, in that it’s a fantasy that takes place in a land that while known, is so far in the past as to be unknown. As Charlotte, a girl from 1963 switches places with a girl named Claire from 1918 every night, they must work together to find out about each others lives while never actually encountering each other. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice to say I was quite moved and ended up sobbing as I was finishing the book during the last half of an airline flight from the west coast. I went looking to see if a children’s movie had been made from the book, and I have to admit I was quite pleased to see there was not one (I worry so about ruining great books – ex. “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”, a childhood favorite ruined in not one but two film versions). I did, however, find an R rated Japanese film titled “Charlotte Sometimes”, which has nothing to do with the book.

Penelope Farmer actually has 2 other books in this same series, according to Amazon. I think I will check them out as well. One of my UK colleagues informs me that this is a book more likely to be read by a Brit than a Yank. Not sure how I found it in the first place, but I’m grateful I did. If you haven’t read “Charlotte Sometimes”, and are a fan of this genre, I encourage you to pick it up.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 22, 2007 5:03 am

    You should have just asked me – I own Charlotte Sometimes and both the related titles (not as good, alas, but I can dig them out for you at some point if your library doesn’t have them). I think it is fairly well known in the US, and has actually been in print for a relatively long time in paperback. In fact, my niece Victoria received Charlotte Sometimes for her tenth birthday last month. However, I did not know about the Cure song and am now curious!

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