Elizabeth Goudge giveaway winner

Thanks to everyone who entered my Elizabeth Goudge giveaway earlier in the week. I have used RandomResult.com to select a winner at random – and the winner is…

Allison M

Congratulations Allison! You’ve won a copy of The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge.

I hope you enjoy the book. I haven’t read it myself yet but I’m sure it will be lovely. Thanks again to Hendrickson Publishers for making this giveaway possible.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge

For the last few years Lory of The Emerald City Book Review has been hosting a celebration of Elizabeth Goudge’s work on the author’s birthday and as a result I have read three wonderful novels, one every April since 2015 – The Child from the Sea, The White Witch and Towers in the Mist. This year Lory has taken a break from hosting this event, but I was pleased to find that it has a new home at Howling Frog Books and Jorie Loves a Story. Even before I knew that there would be an Elizabeth Goudge Day 2018, I had already decided to mark the day myself by reading another of her books. I still had plenty of unread Goudge novels to choose from, but Gentian Hill was the one I felt most drawn to this year.

Gentian Hill, first published in 1949, is set in Devon during the Napoleonic Wars. It opens on a peaceful August evening with a Royal Navy fleet arriving at Torbay during a glorious sunset. On board one of the frigates is fifteen-year-old Midshipman Anthony Louis Mary O’Connell, who has been in the Navy for eight weeks and has had all he can take of the seasickness, the brutal treatment, the punishments, and the taunts of the older, more experienced sailors. Escaping from the ship during the night, he deserts and disappears into the countryside where, taking the name of Zachary, he wanders from place to place looking for work until, eventually, fate takes him to Weekaborough Farm near Gentian Hill.

Weekaborough Farm is home to the Spriggs and their ten-year-old adopted daughter Stella. Stella is a gentle, sensitive girl whose time is divided between caring for the animals on the farm and attending lessons with Dr Crane, the village doctor, a man who values the importance of a thorough education for girls as well as boys:

Reading, writing, and elementary arithmetic were all the child needed to learn of the doctor, Mother Sprigg maintained. This, combined with the arts of housewifery that she herself could teach her, was all the education required by a farmer’s daughter. Doctor Crane disagreed; the education required by any individual, he maintained, was just exactly all the knowledge the individual could possibly assimilate.

When Zachary arrives in Stella’s life, an instant connection forms between the two of them which quickly blossoms into love, but soon Zachary must go to sea again…and there is no guarantee that they will be reunited.

I enjoyed Gentian Hill; as with all the other Goudge novels I’ve read, the writing is beautiful and there are some truly lovely descriptions of the Devon countryside. Here are the words she uses to bring Torbay to life:

The last light of the sun was streaming over the rampart of green hills to the west, brimming the leafy valleys with liquid gold, then emptying itself in a sort of abandonment of glory into the vast domed space of sky and sea beyond. There were ripples on the water, and a fragile pattern of cirrus clouds above, and these caught the light in vivid points of fire that were delicate as filigree upon the fine metal of the gold-washed sea and sky.

However, this is probably my least favourite of the four books I’ve read so far. With the hero and heroine being ten and fifteen (and they only age slightly over the course of the novel), I couldn’t really believe in the romance between them – it felt more like the love between a brother and a sister. I also found the characters a little bit too good and too pure, even for a Goudge novel; I feel sure there were characters in her other books who were more complex – unless I was just in the wrong mood this time.

I did find plenty of things to love, though. I particularly liked the way Goudge weaves local legends into the story, such as the legend of St Michael’s Chapel in Torquay, as well as all the customs and traditions that formed part of 18th century rural life: Christmas wassailing, the Ploughing Chant, harvesting, corn dollies, and the ancient instrument known as the bull-roarer. I also enjoyed following the story of the Abbe de Colbert, chaplain of Torre Abbey, who lived and suffered through the recent French Revolution. And although the plot is predictable, what I was hoping would happen is exactly what did happen, so I was happy with that!

Gentian Hill is a lovely story, but if you have never tried one of Elizabeth Goudge’s historical novels before I would recommend starting with either Towers in the Mist or The Witch Witch. She also wrote several contemporary novels including The Scent of Waterdon’t forget to enter my giveaway if you would like to win a copy of that one!

Win a copy of The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered. The winner has been announced here.

It would have been Elizabeth Goudge’s birthday today – and to celebrate, Hendrickson Publishers are kindly offering a giveaway of her 1963 novel The Scent of Water.

From the Hendrickson website:

A captivating story filled with English charm, luminous wisdom, and astounding spiritual insight

Goudge’s singular gift is the depth and insight she brings to her characters. Mary Lindsay is a born and bred Londoner who has enjoyed her city life — a prestigious job, and friends with whom she takes in the city pleasures of theatre, art and music. But fleeting memories of a childhood visit to her father’s elderly cousin out in the country are revived with the news that the woman has willed her home, the Laurels, to Mary. She makes an uncharacteristically sudden and life-changing decision to leave London for the country. The gradual unfolding of her understanding of herself, of the now-deceased woman who has bequeathed her home to Mary, and of the people of Appleshaw, all weave together in a most memorable story of love’s redemptive power.

Elizabeth Goudge is an author I have come to love over the last few years. You can see my reviews of some of her novels here. Although I haven’t read The Scent of Water yet, I think it sounds lovely!

To enter the giveaway simply comment on this post telling me why you would like to read The Scent of Water. The winner will be chosen at random on Saturday morning (28th April). Good luck!

Elizabeth Goudge Day: Towers in the Mist

I have Lory of The Emerald City Book Review to thank for introducing me to the work of Elizabeth Goudge. Last year, for her Elizabeth Goudge Day (hosted on the author’s birthday, 24th April) I read The White Witch, and the year before I read The Child from the Sea. I loved both so there was no question of not taking part again this year – and I had high hopes for my third Goudge novel, Towers in the Mist, which was first published in 1937.

Not all of Goudge’s novels are historical, but it’s the historical ones that I’ve been drawn to first. Towers in the Mist is set in Oxford in the Elizabethan period and, like the other two I’ve read, it’s a truly beautiful novel. It begins on May Day with Faithful Crocker’s first sight of the “fragile city spun out of dreams, so small that he could have held it on the palm of his hand and blown it away into silver mist”. At the age of fourteen, Faithful has found himself alone in the world and has made his way to Oxford where he hopes to achieve his ambition of becoming a scholar and attending university. With no money, no friends and not even any decent clothes to wear, this may seem unlikely, but Faithful’s fortunes improve when he catches the eye of Canon Leigh of Christ Church, who takes him into his household and treats him as one of the family.

Following the death of his wife several years earlier, Canon Leigh has been left to raise his children alone and most of the responsibility has fallen on his eldest daughter, Joyeuce. Joyeuce is devoted to her younger brothers and sisters, but when student Nicolas de Worde enters her life, she will have to decide what is more important to her. We also follow the stories of the domestically-minded Grace, who longs to step out of her sister Joyeuce’s shadow and take control of the Leigh household, and of four-year-old Diccon, who is thought to have been switched at birth as he is so different in looks and temperament to the rest of the family. These are the people with whom Faithful will build his new life, sharing in their small everyday dramas – such as the chaos of the Spring Wash – as well as the larger ones which affect the entire city and university.

I loved getting to know Faithful and the Leighs (and Nicolas, who ended up being one of my favourite characters after undergoing a bit of a transformation which I hadn’t expected at the beginning) but there are also several real historical figures from the Elizabethan age who play a part in the story. The most prominent are the poet Philip Sidney and the poet/explorer Walter Raleigh who, at the time during which the novel is set, are both young men attending university along with Faithful, Nicolas and Giles Leigh. I loved the contrast between the two characters – the flamboyant, daring Raleigh and the quiet, sensitive Sidney – and I enjoyed the little insights we are given into the work of a poet: “The loveliest phrases are winged, and when the poet opens the door of the place where he put them he finds that the tiresome creatures have flown away.”

Each chapter opens with a passage from a poem by Sidney, Raleigh or another 16th century poet and I thought this was a nice touch which helped to set the mood for the story. Goudge admits in her note at the beginning that not everything in the book will be entirely accurate historically, but I think she is very successful at capturing the overall feel of the Elizabethan period even if it may not be correct in every detail.

Towers in the Mist is a lovely book, but it does have a few flaws and could be too sentimental for many modern day readers. Although the descriptions of Oxford are beautiful and Goudge’s own love for the place shines through, sometimes she goes into long digressions on the history of the city and university which add very little to the plot – you either have the patience for that sort of thing or you don’t. As with the other Goudge novels I’ve read, there’s also a strong religious element which won’t be for everyone either (in fact, it’s not really for me, although it didn’t bother me at all when there was so much else to enjoy).

So, that’s three books by Elizabeth Goudge that I’ve read now and three that I’ve loved. Which one should I read next?

Elizabeth Goudge Day: The White Witch

The White Witch A year ago I read The Child from the Sea as part of Lory of The Emerald City Book Review’s birthday celebrations for Elizabeth Goudge. This year, Lory is hosting another day devoted to the same author and this seemed like a good time to read my second book by Goudge. There were plenty to choose from – some historical and some contemporary, some for adults and some for children – but I decided on The White Witch. I loved The Child from the Sea, which was set in the seventeenth century and told the story of Lucy Walters, a mistress of Charles II, so as The White Witch is set in the same period the chances were good that I would love this book too – and I did.

The English Civil War forms the historical backdrop to the story, but the focus of the novel is on the inhabitants of a small Oxfordshire village and the ways in which their lives are touched by the greater changes taking place in the country as a whole. The ‘white witch’ of the title is Froniga, a healer and herbalist who has family ties with both the Puritan household of Robert Haslewood, the village squire, and with the band of Romany gypsies who camp nearby. Caught between both of these worlds while fully belonging to neither, Froniga is the character around whom all the others revolve.

Froniga is a fascinating character, but there were others whose stories interested me too, particularly Francis Leyland, the secretive stranger who offers to paint a portrait of Haslewood’s two young children, and the mysterious Yoben, who is in love with Froniga. There’s a ‘black witch’ too – and a parson who tries to save her soul – and a vengeful gypsy woman who causes trouble wherever she goes. Whether Parliamentarian or Royalist, Puritan or Catholic, nobleman or gypsy, in the hands of Elizabeth Goudge each of these characters becomes a well-rounded, believable human being – a person we can sympathise with even if we don’t necessarily agree with their views or their choices.

In this novel, the conflicts that take place in an individual’s heart or soul are as important as those which take place on the battlefield, though we do get to see some military action as several of our characters become involved in the major battles and events of the Civil War. But what I loved most about this book were the details of daily village life in the seventeenth century, the beautiful descriptions of the English countryside, and the undercurrents of magic, mystery and mythology which run throughout the story.

The White Witch, although never boring, has a slow pace and – as it was originally published in 1958 – it is written in a style which may not appeal to readers who prefer more modern historical novels and as with The Child from the Sea, there are strong religious and spiritual elements. I love Goudge’s writing style, though; it’s warm and gentle and comforting. I’m looking forward to working through the rest of her novels…and would like to thank Lory for introducing me to her work!

The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

The Child from the Sea “To show you Roch would be such happiness,” she said. “I would show you the bay where the seals come, and perhaps they would sing to you, and the Valley of Roses at St Davids, where the stream is so cool. We would stand on the cliffs when the wind was blowing and hear the gulls screaming and the waves roaring all along the coast.”

“You love the sea?”

“I belong to it.”

Elizabeth Goudge is an author I would probably never have thought about trying if it hadn’t been for Lory of The Emerald City Book Review who is hosting a reading week devoted to Goudge’s work this week. Not knowing much about Elizabeth Goudge’s novels, I read the descriptions of some of them and The Child from the Sea sounded the most appealing to me. Although it seems to be out of print at the moment, I was able to borrow a copy from Open Library.

Goudge wrote a mixture of contemporary novels, short stories, children’s books and historical fiction; The Child from the Sea, published in 1970, is one of her historical fiction novels. It tells the story of Lucy Walter, a mistress – and possibly secret wife – of King Charles II and mother of his eldest son, the Duke of Monmouth.

The novel begins in Wales and introduces us to a young Lucy who is growing up at Roch Castle, the home of the Walter family near the Pembrokeshire coast. The story gets off to a slow start, with lots of descriptions of the scenery and countryside, Welsh customs and traditions, and some of the old myths and legends Lucy learns as a child. We also meet some of the people who live in and around Roch Castle: Lucy’s brothers, the handsome, aloof Richard and the loyal, warm-hearted Justus; her beloved nurse Nan-Nan; and Old Parson and his friend, the mysterious Sin Eater.

This first section of the book could probably have been cut a lot shorter without losing anything important, but it does all add to our understanding of who Lucy is and what a 17th century Welsh childhood may have been like. The story really picks up, though, when the action switches to London on the eve of Civil War and Lucy has her first encounter with the young Charles. Fate brings Lucy and Charles together again several years later and they fall in love, marrying secretly, but it’s not long before they are separated once more by the war raging around them.

The rest of the novel is set during Charles’s period of exile in The Hague following the Parliamentarian victory and the execution of his father, Charles I. We follow Lucy as she travels around Europe awaiting the restoration of the monarchy and hoping that one day she will be acknowledged as Charles’s wife.

Lucy Walter is a woman who really existed and really was one of Charles II’s mistresses, but very little is known about her and there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to prove whether or not she and Charles were legally married. Doing some quick research after finishing this book, it seems that the real Lucy is generally considered by historians to be a very different type of character to the gentle, loving woman portrayed in the novel. But even if this is a romanticised version of her life and her relationship with Charles, and even if it isn’t accurate in every detail, I still found it a very moving, emotional story.

Not knowing anything about Lucy before I read this book meant that I was kept in suspense wondering how the story would play out and what her eventual fate would be. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a book with a happy ending, and I was right. There were some heartbreaking moments in the final chapters of Lucy’s story and I had tears in my eyes at the end of the book.

I’m pleased that I gave myself plenty of time to finish this book in time for the reading week! The writing is lovely but the pace of the story is very slow and this is not a book you can rush through in a few days. You need to take your time to be able to appreciate the beauty of the writing and the insights the author is giving us into history and life in general. For this reason, and because it is quite a romantic, sentimental story, The Child from the Sea probably isn’t a book I would recommend to everyone. There’s also a spiritual aspect to the book that grows stronger as the story progresses and may not be to every reader’s taste.

I loved The Child from the Sea, though, and am pleased I chose this one as my first Elizabeth Goudge book. I will definitely be reading more!