The Dean's Watch

When I was younger (high school and earlier), I was a huge Elizabeth Goudge fan, but her books are difficult to come by now. I especially adored The Little White Horse (also a favourite of JK Rowling) and Linnets and Valerians, written for children, but I also read a number of her novels for adults, of which The Dean's Watch is one. Goudge is one of the authors I regularly trawl for second-hand, so when I saw this come up on Brotherhood Books, I pounced.

Wow. Now I remember why I loved Goudge so much. This book touched me deeply. It starts very slowly, and on the surface it's not a promising premise, essentially tracing the growing friendship between two old men -- one the proud, frightening Dean of the Cathedral in this unnamed fen city, the other a humble, cowardly watchmaker who has lost faith in almost everything. But the ripples of this tentative relationship gradually spread to encompass the entire city. It's also about clock-making, creativity, compassion, fear, love and death.

Some readers accuse Goudge of sentimentality, and it's true, she does veer pretty close to the wind at times. Others will probably find her overt Christianity off-putting. But for Goudge, God is literally Love, and that's a form of Christianity I can get on board with -- in fact it might be that reading Goudge was formative in developing my own ideas about faith and spirituality. Elizabeth Goudge writes with such love and tenderness about all the things I love too -- moonlight and bells, dancing winds and candle-light, snow and stars. She makes the everyday world into something magical, and small human interactions into a facet of the divine.

I sank into this book as though stepping into calm waters. Reading it was a meditation, refreshing to the spirit. This will be a book I return to till the end of my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment