Friday, March 22, 2019

Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge

At the root of all art is giving. You can’t hoard the beauty you’ve drawn into you; you have to pour it out again for the hungry, however feebly, however stupidly. You’ve just got to.

One of the themes of Pilgrim's Inn is true beauty. Several members of the Eliot family are extolled for their physical appearance and artistic talent, but Goudge expertly shows that loving deeply and unselfishly is its own kind of art. By this definition, the plainest of the Eliots  (Margaret and Hilary) are artists of extraordinary talent. Some people express loveliness just by loving. Goudge does not sentimentalize love, but instead shows its high cost. 

The title of the book refers to the old inn that Nadine and George buy as their country home. It used to house devout believers who made their pilgrimages to the nearby abbey. Now it has become a refuge not only for Nadine's family, but for other wanderers. Slowly the residents discover the house's  hidden surprises and its ability to bring them healing. The book was written after WWII and several of the characters have lost their hope in humanity and see no point in bringing children into such a world. Goudge deftly proposes that it is BECAUSE of children that the world can improve. While there were children, men and women would not abandon the struggle to make safe homes to put them in, and while they struggled there was hope.

To Goudge, home-building is world-building. Every family unit is a piece of the armor needed to keep mankind safe and sane. Lucilla, the family matriarch feels this strongly:

She tried to pay attention to what the others were saying. But they were talking about the deplorable state of the world, about that terrible bomb, about famine and inflation and chaos and death, and her mind shied away from their talk like a terrified horse. She couldn’t do anything about it now, at eighty-six, except pray, and in between her prayers, now that the war was over, she wished they would let her forget sometimes that things had not turned out as well as one had hoped, and enjoy the things that were left: the spring sunshine slanting into the quiet room and lighting up the flowers, the lively ripe corn color of Pooh-Bah’s coat, the hot tea, the log fire burning on the hearth, the feel of the dear old dog’s chin resting on her shoe, the sound of the sea coming in the pauses of their talk…Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil. But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilization depended on their quality, and it was no good weakening oneself for the brick-making by thinking too much about the flood.

A lovely installment to the trilogy!



Ruth said...

I read lots of her books at one point, but it's been a while. This sounds so good. Thanks for reminding me of this author!

Sunshine said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Pilgrim's Inn. I've not read it yet, but Goudge does point us towards loftier views in beautifully rendered prose.

You mention a trilogy. Which books are they and in which order should they be read?

I appreciate your many good reviews.


Amy said...

Jill? the nursemaid and Sally also embody the whole idea of loving too, also. Beautiful review!

hopeinbrazil said...

Sunshine, the three books are The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim's Inn (alternate title is Herb of Grace), and the Heart of the Family. I read them out of order, but it makes much more sense if you read the first book first since the main charaters reappear. But Goudge made it possible to read each book as a stand-alone by giving enough of the back story in each one.

hopeinbrazil said...

Yes, Amy, I totally agree. I had Sally in my first review but left her out when editing. I'd forgotten about Jill!