Sunday, 21 December 2014

Island Magic - Elizabeth Goudge

I recently read one of Elizabeth Goudge's childrens' books, and it reminded me that she'd written a lot, and I'd read little.  So I decided to start at the beginning, and read a few of her adult novels.  Island Magic was published in 1934, and possibly set at the end of the 19th century.  It has a story which, if brought up to date, would involve tears, angst, bitterness, estrangement, at least one affair and all the other things that we expect (?) these days!

Island Magic is set on the island of Guernsey, an island that Goudge was familiar with from visits in her childhood.  The descriptions of the island itself lean towards the florid, but you get an idea that she was still developing her style - If I had been asked who wrote this without knowing the author, I probably wouldn't have guessed who it was.  The family at the centre of the story, the du Frocqs, live at Bon Repos; an old farmhouse with what would probably be described as a smallholding these days, for a few pigs, a couple of fields and a yard does not make for a large farm in any way.  The du Frocqs, it is very soon clear, are short of money, living in a house lent to them by the dreadful Doctor du Frocq - of the school of "don't do as I do, do as I tell you", widowed with two sons, one of whom he has not seen for many years, and the other, Andre - father of five children, husband of Rachell and living, by his father's grace, at Bon Repos.  Andre is not cut out to be a farmer, it is only because of his wife's money, now fast running out, that the family can stay on.   Into the lives of this family comes a shipwrecked sailor, Ranulph Mabier, who is certainly not all he seems.

It's not a book to rush through, but rather, a book to curl up by the fire with.  Each chapter is divided into sub-sections, so you can read a little or a lot at a time, and always have a stopping place.  My favourite of all Goudge's books was Little White Horse, a children's novel from the 1940s and a Carnagie Medal winner.  This book is not in that class, but interesting nevertheless and most certainly a picture of a way of life that is long gone.

A big thank you too, to Nan of the blog  Letters from a Hill Farm, whose recent post reminded me of this author.