Today, April 24, is the birth date of the author Elizabeth Goudge and in honor of this, Lory at The EmeraldCity Book Review is celebrating the life and works of one of her favorite authors by inviting other bloggers to read and review Goudge’s works along with her own reviews. I had never read any books by Goudge previously, so I was curious and decided to join in.
I was tempted to read Green Dolphin Street (two sisters both in love with the same man in a historical setting) because it seemed to be a saga on par with say Gone with the Wind or Forever Amber but ultimately I opted for The Rosemary Tree because it was shorter and since I got a late start, time was of the essence.
The Rosemary Tree centers on the Wentworth family living in the mid-1950s in Devonshire, England. John Wentworth is the awkward and forgetful, yet devout vicar of the village of Bellemaray, but should by rights be the squire, as he is the last male issue in the Wentworth family, which goes back as far as Elizabeth I as the local landowning gentry. Instead, his great aunt Maria lives alone in the manor house. This situation is resented by John’s wife Daphne, who married him very much on the rebound of a failed love affair. John’s former nanny, Harriet, lives with John and Daphne and their three children. Initially she came to stay as a housekeeper but it now so plagued by arthritis that she is wheelchair bound and only able to view the world from her bedroom window at the vicarage.
The story goes on to incorporate two teachers from the private school attended by the Wentworth children and a mysterious man who seemingly ends up in the village by accident but is soon befriended by both John and his Aunt Maria. As for plot, there really isn’t one: the Wentworths’ marriage is troubled, the girls’ school is a misery for the teachers and the students and the mysterious stranger has a secret past and a secret connection to one of the other characters. The book is far more concerned with the psychological make-up of the characters and what makes them tick and in particular how we humans can help our fellow humans heal and grow with compassion and communication.
The book heavily references The Secret Garden and Don Quixote and is infused with Christian mysticism and the concepts of redemption and second chances. What I think I liked most about it was that it showed how our actions can positively touch others and just how interconnected we are despite our best efforts to think we can live in isolation. And while the book does have clear religious overtones, I think I can be read by anyone. Its message of connection and forgiveness can be appreciated by a reader of any creed or belief system.