Highly recommended piece by an American fan of Joan Aiken’s children’s fiction:
Aiken’s favorite literary terrain was the blurred border where nineteenth-century realism begins to slip into folklore and fantasy. This is a realm of absurd stock characters and hoary narrative devices: cruel governesses, kindhearted orphans, counterfeit wills, hidden passageways, long-lost relations, doppelgängers, clues hidden in paintings, castaways, coincidences, sudden returns from the dead. But instead of abashedly sneaking in one or two of these elements, as another writer might do, Aiken piled them one atop the other, in the same teetering plots. One wrongly disinherited orphan might be irritating, but two wrongly disinherited orphans in the same novel is something else—and it’s in exploring that something else, its silliness and its surprising depth, that Aiken’s novels become so rich and so strangely moving.