[Elizabeth Goudge (1900 – 1984)]
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.
Connection and forgiveness are frequent and important themes for Goudge. I'm glad that you found that this message can transcend religious boundaries -- I agree, but I'm not always sure if that comes across to other readers. Thank you for participating in Elizabeth Goudge Day!ReplyDelete
Thanks for giving me an opportunity to finally read one of Goudge's titles! If The Rosemary Tree is anything to go by, she really goes into the psychological workings of her characters which helps make those universal connections I think.Delete
Absolutely, I think her psychological insights are outstanding.Delete
I'm slowly working my way through Goudge's adult novels, but haven't read this one yet. It sounds interesting, though maybe not as appealing to me as some of her others.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the comment Helen! Save this one for last maybe then :). I certainly enjoyed it but can't compare it to Goudge's other works.Delete
Until I got to the part in your post about the religious overtones, I was thinking that I would love this book/author. But, I really hate to be preached to when I read--hence, my avoidance of C.S. Lewis. Are all of her books like this?ReplyDelete
This is the only book of hers I have read, but I understand from other reviews that most of her books reflect Christian spirituality. Lory at Emerald City would be the expert to ask I think since she has read most of Goudge's titles. : )Delete
I'm going to put my oar in here, Jane, and say that I personally don't find her books preachy, even though they have religious elements -- she also has non-religious and even anti-religious characters and they are all treated with the same compassion. To me that creates a more whole view of life than ignoring or omitting religion altogether.Delete
Even though I loved CS Lewis as a child, some of his writing makes me deeply uncomfortable now - I don't have that reaction with Goudge. However, everyone's personal taste will differ. I would just encourage you to give her writing a chance!
That said, this is one of the books of hers that has the most religious musings (not preaching), so you might want to start with something else. My personal favorites are The Dean's Watch, Pilgrim's Inn (aka The Herb of Grace) and A City of Bells. If you're interested in history, The White Witch is a wonderful novel about the English Civil War. And I will stop now so you can make your own decisions!
Goodness, I've never heard of this author. Better now than never.ReplyDelete
I think she is one of those authors who has fallen out of fashion (like Barbara Pym or Dorothy Whipple) but still has a small, but quite active fan base!Delete
Helpful discussion in the comments. I have The Rosemary Tree but haven't started it yet. I found it secondhand but I probably would have chosen Dean's Watch if I'd seen it. Her books aren't readily available here in Australia.ReplyDelete
I am glad you found the discussion helpful Carol. I hope you enjoy The Rosemary Tree when you get to it. Based on what I have observed on your blog thus far, I think you will! :)Delete