Caravan Holiday, by Hilda Boden, for Timeslip Tuesday

Though I enjoy current fantasy lots and lots, my true comfort readers are mid-twentieth century UK fiction.  And so when I was given a copy of Caravan Holiday, by Hilda Boden (1953), I was very pleased, and when I found out it was an archaeological timeslip story, I should have been even more pleased, but the sad fact of the matter is that it wasn't great.

Timothy and Susan are spending the summer holiday in a caravan on a farm by the seaside, while their archaeologist parents investigate a possible stone age site.  They find a secluded little valley with  stream, where Timothy decides to build his own house, and perhaps even camp there.   A strange boy, Noor, shows up, who seems to know everything about building small temporary structures, starting fires, hunting animals, and other useful things.  Gradually it becomes clear that he's slipping through time from Neolithic England....

Join Timothy as he gets his archaeologist father's ideas about gender roles of the past hammered firmly home by Noor! Wince at the father's archaeological mansplaining to the mother, who is an archaeologist in her own right, although she is also wonderful at making a caravan a cozy home, and indeed it is in the domestic sphere that we see her most.  Wince as Noor keeps putting Susan in her place as a girl.  Wish Susan would kick him.

Wonder at the qualifications, which seem to be nil, of the archaeologist mother and father, and shudder at their methodology and the damage they seem to be doing to their site.  Yes, this was a while ago, but still.

Wonder as well what the jacket flap text meant by the  "adventures" the three children are supposed to be having, because there are none to be found.  Some hut building, some gender essentialism, and that's it.

Regret that the author could not make the characters more interesting. Wish they had talked to each other more about their different time periods, and think more could have been made of the clash of cultures.  Regret as well that the hut building, which could have been fun if more effort had been made making the furnishing of it, etc., real, was simply a construction project.  Think that joining the little sister, Susan, in making sand castles, which she would rather do than build huts, sounds rather nice.

But since it's only 94 pages long, there just isn't room for everything I would have liked.

There's some inconclusiveness about whether Noor is a real time-slipping boy or a figment of Timothy's imagination.  Anything organic that Noor brings to the campsite vanishes, but some stone tools remain (though of course they would have remained in any event).  But what convinced me this was really time travel is that the fire that Noor is able to effortlessly and almost instantly get going with two pieces of wood is very real, and so I think Noor must be too, because Timothy could never have done it on his own. 

short answer:  it sure could have been a good book if it had been a different one with the same basic plot and setting....

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