The World of Elizabeth Goudge


I ordered The World of Elizabeth Goudge from Girls Gone By. Goudge was one of my favourite authors as a child (The Little White Horse, Linnets and Valerians, Smoky House) and I also read some of her adult titles which my mother must have borrowed from the same library. I enjoyed them too, though some of the  content would have gone over my head; but I do remember the lovely atmosphere of the Cathedral books. More recently I got hold of The Dean's Watch, a masterpiece which I think I must have also read when young, as so many bits chimed in my memory.

Elizabeth Goudge is such a joyful, sensitive writer, and her later books are deeply spiritual, compassionate and forgiving. Perhaps it's not surprising that the daughter of a clergyman would be preoccupied with spiritual matters, but note that I'm using the word spiritual rather than religious. In Goudge's work, solace is often found in churches and wisdom in vicars, but there is surprisingly little overt religiosity -- it's the tranquillity of ancient buildings, the beauty of nature, the faithful love of animals and the very human qualities of kindness, laughter and forgiveness that ultimately give salvation.

The World of Elizabeth Goudge is part biography, part travel guide, part personal reflection, as Sylvia Gower journeys around the various towns and counties where Goudge lived and worked. Elizabeth Goudge enjoyed a relatively peaceful and uneventful life, embarking early on her writing career, but she did live in various parts of England, as well as visiting Jersey where her mother's family lived. She took deep inspiration from all these places, in fact the notion of place and belonging is particularly strong in her work and one of the elements that drew me in, even as a child. 

This book has convinced me to go Goudge hunting. Many of her books are still in print and I think I might try to collect as many as I can.


  1. Thanks for mentioning this. I've just been onto GGBP's site to order not just this but two of the Goudges they have republished, as a gift for my mother. Her collection of Goudge's were the first adult books I read when I'd run out of children's books to read, in the days when YA was barely starting to be a thing. I was very excited to see 'Henrietta's House' which I remember very fondly - a book in which a girl gets bought a whole room full of books - absolute wish fulfilment!

  2. And I have just returned to GGBP to order Henrietta's House! I'm not sure if I read that one as a child or not - maybe not, as I'm sure I would have remembered the room full of books!! What bliss!
    I've just discovered that my local library actually has a handful of Goudge's, huzzah.

  3. The three 'Eliots of Damerosehay' novels are still my best and most effective comfort books. They are beautiful books, full of gorgeous lyrical writing but they also look at some dark places of the heart. The spirituality while Christian is not to me overly religious, and indeed they've even (in times of apathy and fatigue and extreme blah-ness) helped me regain my backbone and get on with it. She's not really a 'fluffy' writer at all.

  4. Oh, Sue, I have just started The Bird in the Tree and I'm finding it so deeply comforting and refreshing. I know exactly what you mean. I will write about it later, but I think there is something about that leisured pace and detail (beautifully written) that really forces the reader to slow down and mediate, almost. No, definitely not fluffy.