A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively was published in 1976. It won the Whitbread Children’s Book Award which isn’t at all surprising as it’s a lovely read. It was apparently aimed at readers between 11 and 14 but of course is for readers of all ages.
It begins with Maria and her parents driving to Lyme Regis for their summer holidays. Maria is an only child, her parents are rather old fashioned and staid introverts and it’s a lonely life for her. In fact she’s so lonely that she has conversations with inanimate objects with Maria supplying both sides of the conversation.
Her life changes completely when she becomes involved with a large and noisy family who are staying in the hotel next door. It’s a different world, but her parents are quite appalled by them, they can’t stand the mayhem, and Maria’s father can hardly recognise his daughter who is running around and having FUN.
Maria and Martin, the eldest boy in the family bond over their interest in fossils and spend time searching for them on the beach. When Mrs Shand the owner of Maria’s rental house discovers their interest she’s happy to show them her collection of fossils, but Maria is entranced by an old embroidered sampler on the wall, especially when she realises that the embroidered house in it depicts the house she’s holidaying in. Mrs Shand’s sister Harriet had embroidered the sampler and Maria feels that something bad must have happened to Harriet, she can almost feel her presence, and is it Harriet that she can hear playing on the non-existent swing?
I really enjoyed this one and it brought back memories of what it was like growing up in the 1960s/70s when loads of kids would pile into the back of a car to go on trips to the beach or wherever. No safety belts, just heaps of entangled limbs, laughs, shrieks and fun. We survived!