The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett tells the strange tale of a lonely little girl named Eepersip, who yearns to escape the confines of her family and roam free forever in the wilderness. Running away from home, Eepersip experiences transcendental joy in her communion with nature. She does not want to be suffocated by conventional home and hearth, but her parents, in their desperation to keep her ‘safe’ have other ideas. Can this wild spirit be tamed?
First published in 1927, in this elegant new hardback edition, Jackie Morris provides beautiful illustrations and an introduction to a lost classic that she says sings to her soul across a century.
As Eepersip runs free with the deer and dances with butterflies, she muses that she ‘…could never, never go back,’ the themes of captivity and escape writ large as she attempts to outwit her searching parents. After making merry in the meadows and the mountains, Eepersip heads for the ocean and lives like a mermaid, in a dress of woven seaweed and shells.
Enchanted as I was by this elemental magic, reading it gave me a slight chill. Eepersip’s affinity with nature seems to diminish her capacity for human empathy, as evinced by some startling scenes involving her long-suffering family. It is as if she is turning away from our peopled world. The ecstatic nature writing has a certain naivety to it, and it’s here that I’ll reveal that the author was only twelve years old when it was published.
Barbara Newhall Follett was a child prodigy, and this book was a bestseller. Her love of nature encompassed the ocean too and thrillingly she enlisted as a ‘cabin boy’ to research her subsequent novel. Maybe it wouldn’t surprise you to discover that several years later, the authorial spirit of Eepersip walked out of her home with only thirty dollars in her pocket and was never seen again.
Somehow, knowing this adds to the eerie beauty of this deservedly revived classic.
The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett is published by Hamish Hamilton, 240 pages.