In just two weeks, I’ll be hosting Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week, a chance to celebrate one of my favorite authors. I hope you’ll join us by picking up one of her beautiful and magical stories, or just stopping by to read others’ thoughts. Please have a look at the main event page for more information, a bibliography, and a chance to leave a comment letting us know your plans and ideas. And please check out my giveaway of The Dean’s Watch as part of the Literary Blog Hop — participants will earn an extra entry!
In anticipation of the week I recently re-read the trio of books concerning the Eliot family: The Bird in the Tree (1940), Pilgrim’s Inn (original title The Herb of Grace, 1948), and The Heart of the Family (1953). In these books, as so often with Goudge’s works, the setting takes on an major role, and the family home of Damerosehay, as well as the nearby “pilgrim’s inn” named The Herb of Grace, nearly become characters in their own right. If you’ve ever longed to live in this kind of house, which has sheltered and nourished so many people over the years that it develops its own personality, you’ll definitely want to visit Damerosehay.
It was Lucilla, matriarch of the Eliot family, who found the dilapidated eighteenth century house (against the outcry of her more practical children) and claimed it as a home in which to raise her recently orphaned grandson, David. As the story begins, David, now grown, is about to make a momentous marital choice, which goes against everything that Lucilla has worked and planned for all these years. How he reconsiders this choice, under the influence of Damerosehay and its past and present inhabitants, leads to an exploration of what it means to be an individual within a community, and what gives purpose to our lives on earth.
The successive volumes continue to wrestle with these questions — marriage is definitely not a “happily ever after” situation here — in a rich and nuanced way, through characters who quickly work their way into our hearts. Their love of their family, of their homes, and of the surrounding land becomes ours, too. Goudge is particularly good at writing children and old people, and there are wonderful examples of both here, who give rise to many delightful and humorous and poignant moments. Another thing that I think she excels at is making us understand and empathize with characters we may not necessarily like very much, or at all — such as the domineering Lucilla, or her impervious young grandson Tommy. Though we may not always agree with them, they all become very real to us, enriching our experience of the human heart and spirit.
|Original Coward-McCann edition|
Of the three, my favorite is the middle volume, called The Herb of Grace in the UK and Pilgrim’s Inn in the US. The first and third books are more one-sidedly weighted, toward melodrama on the one hand, and philosophical ramblings on the other. In the middle of her trilogy, though, Goudge struck the right balance between incident, description, and character development. In this well-crafted tale, one branch of the Eliot family gets to move into and renovate an ancient inn, creating a haven for themselves and others, and making an exciting discovery. I know I’ll return to it again and again for a dose of comfort and enchantment.
The three books are set more or less concurrently with their year of publication — just before the second world war, just after, and a few years later — and though the war years are not directly presented, their influence is very much felt. The first book is full of the dread of war, the second and third of how its horrors still persist into peacetime. Yet against these disturbances stand the houses and the families that inhabit them, making a bright space within a dark world, looking toward that other world where war will be no more.
I’m so glad that Hendrickson Publishers have brought these lovely books back into print, keeping the magic of Damerosehay alive for today’s readers.The Eliot Family books by Elizabeth Goudge
Published byHendrickson in 1940/1948/1953
Format:Paperback from Publisher
A copy was received for review purposes from the publisher. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.
Tags: Elizabeth Goudge, Fiction
Elizabeth de Beauchamp GoudgeFRSL (24 April 1900 – 1 April 1984) was an English author of novels, short stories and children's books as Elizabeth Goudge. She won the Carnegie Medal for British children's books in 1946 for The Little White Horse. She was a best-selling author in both the UK and the US from the 1930s through the 1970s.
Goudge gained renewed attention decades later. In 1993 one of her books was plagiarised by Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen; the "new" novel set in India garnered rave reviews in both The New York Times and The Washington Post before its source was discovered. In 2001 or 2002 J. K. Rowling identified The Little White Horse as one of her favourite books and one of few with direct influence on the Harry Potter series.
Goudge was born on 24 April 1900 in the cathedral city of Wells, where her father, Henry Leighton Goudge, was vice-principal of the Theological College. The family moved to Ely when he became principal of the Theological College there and then to Christ Church, Oxford when he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at the University. Elizabeth was educated at Grassendale School, Southbourne (1914–18), and at the art school at University College Reading, then an extension college of Christ Church. She went on to teach design and handicrafts in Ely and Oxford.
After her father's death in 1939, Goudge and her mother moved into a bungalow in Marldon, Devon, planning to vacation there. However, the Second World War broke out while they were there, and they decided to stay. A local contractor built them a new bungalow on Westerland Lane, now known as Providence Cottage, where they lived for 12 years. She wrote several of her books there, using Marldon based as a setting: Smoky House (1940), The Castle on the Hill (1941), Green Dolphin Country (1944), The Little White Horse (1946), and Gentian Hill (1949). After her mother's death in 1951, she moved to Oxfordshire, spending the last 30 years of her life living at a cottage on Peppard Common, just outside Henley-on-Thames, where a blue plaque was unveiled in 2008.
She died on 1 April 1984.
Goudge's first book, The Fairies' Baby and Other Stories (1919), was a failure and it was several years before she wrote her first novel, Island Magic (1934), which was an immediate success. It was based on Channel Island stories, many of which she had learned from her mother, a native of Guernsey. Elizabeth herself regularly visited Guernsey as a child, and recalled in her autobiography The Joy of the Snow spending many of her summers with her maternal grandparents and relatives.
For The Little White Horse, published by the University of London Press in 1946, Goudge won the annual Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject. It was her own favourite among her works.
Goudge was a founding member of the Romantic Novelists' Association in 1960 and later its vice president.
|“||As this world becomes increasingly ugly, callous and materialistic it needs to be reminded that the old fairy stories are rooted in truth, that imagination is of value, that happy endings do, in fact, occur, and that the blue spring mist that makes an ugly street look beautiful is just as real a thing as the street itself.||”|
|— Elizabeth Goudge|
Goudge's books are notably Christian in outlook, containing such themes as sacrifice, conversion, discipline, healing, and growth through suffering. Her novels, whether realistic, fantasy, or historical, interweave legend and myth and reflect her spirituality and her deep love of England. Whether written for adults or children, the same qualities pervade Goudge's work and are the source of its appeal to readers.
She said there were only three of her books that she loved: The Valley of Song, The Dean's Watch and The Child from the Sea, her final novel. Of The Child from the Sea she said:
I doubt if it is a good book, nevertheless I love it because its theme is forgiveness, the grace that seems to me divine above all others, and the most desperate need of all us tormented and tormenting human beings, and also because I seemed to give to it all I have to give; very little, heaven knows. And so I know I can never write another novel, for I do not think there is anything else to say.
Plagiarism of Goudge's work
Early in 1993, Crane's Morning by Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen was published by Penguin Books in India, the author's second novel. In the U.S. it was published by Ballantine Books, and enthusiastically reviewed for The New York Times and The Washington Post. For the Post, Paul Kafka called it "at once achingly familiar and breathtakingly new. [The author] believes we all live in one borderless culture." In February, the Times called it "magic" and "full of humour and insight", although it conceded that the "deliberately old-fashioned" style "sometimes verges on the sentimental."
One month later, a reader from Ontario informed Goudge's publisher that her book The Rosemary Tree (Hodder & Stoughton, 1956) had been "taken over without any acknowledgment whatsoever". Soon another reader informed a newspaper reporter and there was a scandal.
The Rosemary Tree, once labeled "pop fiction, meant to be consumed and forgotten," is a story of hope, rescue, and redemption where God and the devil are subtly and surprisingly rendered as two elderly shut-in ladies. It portrays a Devonshirevicarage landscape in transition, upsetting its people's grasp of the past while working out their presents, surely defying such shallow dismissals.
When it was first published in 1956, The New York Times Book Review criticized its "slight plot" and "sentimentally ecstatic" approach. After Aikath-Gyaltsen recast the setting to an Indian village, changing the names and switching the religion to Hindu but often keeping the story word-for-word the same, it received better notices.
Kafka later remarked about his Post review: "there's a phrase 'aesthetic affirmative action.' If something comes from exotic parts, it's read very differently than if it's domestically grown. ... Maybe Elizabeth Goudge is a writer who hasn't gotten her due."
Several months later, Indrani Aikath-Gyaltsen was dead, perhaps a suicide, but there were suspicious circumstances and requests for investigation.
J. K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, has recalled that The Little White Horse was her favourite book as a child. She has also identified it as one of very few with "direct influence on the Harry Potter books. The author always included details of what her characters were eating and I remember liking that. You may have noticed that I always list the food being eaten at Hogwarts."
The television mini-series Moonacre and the 2009 film The Secret of Moonacre were based on The Little White Horse.
Green Dolphin Country (1944) was adapted as a film under its U.S. title; Green Dolphin Street won the Academy Award for Special Effects in 1948.
Awards and honours
- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Annual Novel Award, 1944, Green Dolphin Country.
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, 1945.
- Carnegie Medal, 1946, The Little White Horse.
The Torminster Saga
The Eliots of Damerosehay Saga
Anthologies containing stories by Elizabeth Goudge
Anthologies edited by Elizabeth Goudge
- ^ abc(Carnegie Winner 1946). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- ^ abcdefghMolly Moore, "Plagiarism and mystery"Archived 12 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Washington Post Foreign Service, 27 April 1994. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^ abConversations with J.K. Rowling, Linda Fraser, Scholastic, 2001, ISBN 978-0439314558. p. 24.
- ^ ab"Harry Potter – Harry and me"Archived 5 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Lindsay Fraser's interview with J. K. Rowling from The Scotsman, November 2002.
. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- ^D. L. Kirkpatrick (ed.), Twentieth-Century Children's Writers (2nd ed., London, 1983), pp. 324–325. ISBN 0-912289-45-7
- ^"Elizabeth Goudge, her time in Marldon". Marldon Local History Group: Life in a Devon Parish. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- ^"Elizabeth GOUDGE (1900–1984)". Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Scheme.
- ^Obituaries in The Times, 3 April 1984; in The New York Times 27 April 1984.
- ^Goudge, Elizabeth (1974). The Joy of the Snow. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan. ISBN 978-0-698-10605-5.
- ^John Attenborough, "Goudge, Elizabeth de Beauchamp (1900–1984)", revised by Victoria Millar, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Online edition retrieved 17 September 2009.
- ^"Our story". Romantic Novelists' Association. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- ^Romantic Novelists' Association's Story
- ^Elizabeth Goudge, The Joy of the Snow, Coronet, Sevenoaks, 1977, pp. 256–59.
- ^Elizabeth Goudge, The Joy of the Snow, p. 259.
- ^The New York Times, 10 September 1944.