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!