Friday, October 4, 2013

Island Magic by Elizabeth Goudge

Once in a while a book comes along that’s just too scrumptious to put down, one that makes you abandon your regular habit of taking notes while reading so you can get lost in the story. Island Magic is that kind of book.

Rachell and André are the proud parents of five high-spirited children. Their lives, though, are not peaches and cream. The year is 1888 and they live on a run-down farm in the town of St. Pierre, on one of the Channel Islands (between England and the coast of Normandy).  Their sixteen year marriage has been tried by fire as they’ve buried three babies and used up all of Rachell’s inheritance to keep the farm going.  

The name of the farm is “Bon Repos” and when André tells Rachell that they’ll have to abandon it and take their losses, she refuses to believe that the place that they’ve created as a refuge for themselves can be let go so easily.

When a shipwrecked man is brought to the island, Rachell immediately takes him in, sensing that somehow he’ll be the solution to their problems. The man, Ranulph, has spent his whole life refusing to be tied down to anyone or any place yet he finds the du Frocq family hard to resist.  As the story unfolds he finds healing for some of his past hurts and contributes to the welfare of the family in various ways. Goudge throws in a few twists and surprises for good measure.

As always, she succeeds in writing a beautiful story while weaving in themes of mortality, committed love, and the freedom of “tying oneself down” to duty and to family.

In the end, the island magic is not the superstitions of the people (which are highlighted throughout the book), but the way it forces people in such a small space to be a community. “You can’t be an individualist on our Island, she said. . . . With the sea flung round us and holding us so tightly we are thrown into each other’s arms - souls and seasons and birds and flowers, and running water. People understand unity who live on an island. And peace.” (p. 262)

This was Goudge's first novel, published in 1934. A lovely book!


GretchenJoanna said...

I am so glad to hear about this book, which is one of Goudge's I haven't read. It sounds really appealing, and I will try to get it, because your review makes me want to go to that community and live there a while. Thank you!

Carol said...

I've been wanting to read something from this author for a long time. Do you recommend this one as a first??

hopeinbrazil said...

Yes, this would be a good place to start, but I think it's hard to find. The other book I would recommend would be The Dean's Watch. Frankly,her Damerosehay trilogy is her most beloved work, but you'd have to make a commitment to three books instead of one.

Carol in Oregon said...

Years ago, Sherry at Semicolon wrote about themes in reading that fascinate us. Island living is one of themes that never fails to fascinate.

I hadn't heard of this Goudge title, but I will search it out.

I have the Damerosehay trilogy on my nightstand--probably a year now--but it is hard with so many titles clamoring to be the next read. The life of a reader, yes?

Carol in Oregon said...

Yes! I just requested it from another library in our system.

Charlotte said...

This was my first adult Goudge, and I remember vividly the day I found it. I was 12, and had loved her children's books for years, and my mother finally thought I was old enough to be told she had more books in the adult section--Bliss!!!!

Carol said...

Thanks. I'll see if I can find any of those at the library.

Carol said...

Thanks. I found The Dean's Watch online. Hendrickson publishers are printing this & the trilogy.

Anna Mussmann said...

Sounds like a great book!