Friday, September 25, 2015

A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge

I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Goudge. Imagine my disappointment when I visited England recently and couldn't find her books anywhere. But I had City of Bells in my luggage, so all was not lost.

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 TreePilgrim'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.

I'm delighted that more of her books are becoming available for Kindle, although they are expensive (in the ten dollar range).


Farm Girl said...

Have you read Scent of Water? Or the White Witch? There were things that I know come from old mythology, but of course, not having a deep background in it, I have wondered about just what was she talking about.
I want to get all of her books and since I prefer the old library editions it is just something I look for when I visit used bookstores.
I guess I am old fashioned, just not a fan of Kindle. I tried, but I just like my books.
How nice you visited England.

they call me mommy said...

Wait. You VISITED England recently? :D Wonderful! That is my dream destination. What did you get to see? :) That is so strange about not finding Goudge anywhere. Huh. I too enjoy her... although I'm having a hard time getting into The Rosemary Tree, right at the moment though...I think I just have too many good books on my stack! The Middle Window WAS strange, wasn't it? I like her descriptions of Scotland and the beauty there...but yeah...weird. I love A City of Bells, but should reread it! I recently reread Pilgrim's Inn...that's my favorite one. My dd and I finished The Little White Horse last year and we enjoyed it, but it was a bit strange also!

Janet said...

I enjoyed your review. Grandfather's description of reading makes perfect sense to me, though I've never thought of it before!

Peggy Arthurs said...

I have Pilgrim's Inn on my bookshelf! I have not read any Goudge yet but am looking forward to it. I've seen several of her books at book sales and used bookstores.