It's the story of Jocelyn Irvin who has returned from the Boer War (1899-1902) with a lame leg. Reluctant to face a lot of people, he travels to Torminster, a quiet town where his grandfather lives. He begins to rebuild his life by opening a book shop and making new friends.
Although City of Bells left me bewildered at times, I enjoyed the characters and their passion for books. They playfully referred to Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights as "Jane" and "Emily."
On page 105 Grandfather says this about books: In my experience when people once begin to read they go on. They begin because they think they ought to and they go on because they must. Yes. They find it widens life. We're all greeedy for life, you know, and our short span of existence can't give us all that we hunger for, the time is too short and our capacity not large enough. But in books we experience life vicariously.
My enthusiasm for the book was dampened by the mystical thread about "thought transference," in which several characters send thoughts to each other across the miles. It seemed sort of silly in an otherwise serious story.
My favorite Goudge title is The Dean's Watch, but I've enjoyed the Damerosehay trilogy (The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim's Inn, and The Heart of the Family), I Saw Three Ships, and Island Magic. I did not like Middle Window, so not all of her books are created equal. But she's one of the best writers of light novels with deep themes.