Robinsheugh (aka Elizabeth, Elizabeth) by Eileen Dunlop, for Timeslip Tuesday

I first read Robinsheugh (aka Elizabeth, Elizabeth) by Eileen Dunlop (1975) back when I was 10, and though I was an inveterate re-reader at that time, I only read it once, because it was too dark and unpleasant for me.  So when a copy came my way recently, I was curious to see if it really was as dark as I remembered it being.

It's the story of a girl named Elizabeth, who's packed off to stay for three months with her academic cousin, Kate.  Elizabeth and Kate were very close when Elizabeth was younger, but they've become estranged, so the prospect of three months together in a Scottish manor house in the middle of nowhere (where Kate is doing research) does not appeal.  And when she gets there, and is left completely to her own lonely devices, feeling hurt and angry and unwanted, a dark and claustrophobic sort of mood is established.

But then she travels back to the 18th century, and is part of the family that used to live there.  She's now a different Elizabeth, loved and cared for by the family nurse, and loving her older brother, brilliant and gay Robin, fiercely.  Her time in the past is not idyllic; her mother (not often home, thankfully) is cold and always finding fault, and past Elizabeth struggles against societies expectations.  She wants to learn, like Robin is able too, and though he kindly starts to teach her Latin, she's not going to be able to become as educated as she would like.

This part is creepy because Elizabeth is loosing her self and becoming the past Elizabeth.  But it is not a creepy as the bit that comes at the end, when Bang!  Robin is revealed as a psychopath who wants to pull modern Elizabeth back into the past and keep her forever.

This is not gracefully done.  Though it was clear throughout that Robin wasn't quite sound, and wasn't to be relied on, and was in danger of going to the dogs, he was not clearly a psychopath, though the adults apparently knew he killed small animals, etc. (Cousin Kate learned about his psychopath side through her research, allowing it to be shared with the reader).

But on the other hand it gets quite scary very dramatically, and Robin is really creepy and nasty.

So it pretty much was the same book that I remembered.  Not a pleasant, comforting book, but the historical fiction was great--if you want domestic fiction in an 18th century manor house, this is a book for you!  Dunlop does very well with the time travel, and it's worth reading just for that.  I also like that the time Elizabeth spent in the past actually has affected her character by the time it's all done, making her more interested in academia as a career, although she doesn't seem to have retained any of the Latin, which is a pity.

But my main though right now is that I wish that the school library had had Eileen Dulop's other book published a year later instead of this one.  A Flute on Mayferry Street (aka The House on Mayferry Street) is an utter delight and I didn't read it until I was quite an old adult, mores the pity.  I would have re-read it every year.


  1. This sounds pretty interesting, but I think I wouldn't be happy with the ending either. Thanks for telling me about it.

  2. Hi. Is there any way you would be having any e-copy for this book?


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