Summer at Forsaken Lake

Michael D. Beil

When this book crossed my desk at the local public library in 2012, I was immediately attracted by the cover, sunset with a sailboat and two children on the dock. When the first page started out with a boat named Goblin, and the second page was an illustration not unlike Ransome’s Goblin, I was even more intrigued, and the story more than lived up to expectations.

The story is set on "Forsaken Lake" in Ohio, and as usual in children's adventure fiction, the parents are out of the picture from the start, so there's only the more permissive Uncle Nick to supervise twin girls Hailey and Hetty and 12-year old Nicholas, in what they expect will be a boring summer in the country. What with learning to sail, ride a bike, and hit a curveball, Nicholas Mettleson has plenty to do, and that's before meeting an interesting girl called Charlie (who is the pitcher of the curveball), and setting out to solve a mystery left over from his father's youth at the lake, not to mention making a movie.

Uncle Nick gives them We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea to read, and soon they are living their own version of the story, sailing Goblin through a nighttime storm on the lake and rescuing more than just a kitten en route, on their own with even Uncle Nick temporarily out of the picture. A barn find at Uncle Nick's place is an uncompleted smaller sailboat, which is finished by Nicholas and Charlie with five coats of varnish, sanding between each coat, and christened Imp.

All's well that ends well, what with sailing, dogs, bikes, baseball, and the mystery of the "Seaweed Strangler," and the result is not too far from something Ransome might come up with if he were writing today in America. Just as we love our Ransome on this side of the pond, Summer at Forsaken Lake could just as well be enjoyed by British fans of Ransome-esque juvenile fiction. The endpapers include a lines plan of Goblin, there is a diagram of the parts of a sailboat and points of sail, and even the chapter headings feature a variety of sailing knots. No dystopian futures or teen angst here, just a good old-fashioned story of kids, sailing, and summer at the lake, with a mystery, a hint of romance, and a reunion of old friends at the end. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Jane Rice, September 2018

This article is ©2018 by Jane Rice, and posted on All Things Ransome with permission.

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