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!