Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Smokey-House by Elizabeth Goudge

Smokey-House is the name of the village pub in the village of Faraway, deep in a valley in Cornwall, bounded on three sides by the high moors, and the last by the sea.  In Smokey-House live a family of 5 motherless children, the oldest acting as housekeeper, and their father the publican.  Add to that two dogs (stolen from someone else) and a donkey with a bad temper.  The children are Jessamine, Genefer, Tristram, Michael and Jane; the dogs Sot and Sausage, and the donkey Mathilda.  They live a lovely life, rabbit stew every evening, space to run and play, and nothing to fear except the Man-With-The-Red-Handkerchief (although, frankly, he's the least of their worries, as you will see further on in the story).  The children know that people in the village are smugglers, or Free Traders, as they prefer to be known, they know that the local squire gives money away to the poor, that he loves to hunt, eats well - but have no idea where his money comes from.  When a fiddle-playing foreigner arrives in the village things change in the most dramatic way.   

Elizabeth Goudge won the Carnagie Medal for Little White Horse in 1946, and it has never been out of print since.  Smokey-House, not so well known, has been out of print for some time and it does not have quite the charm of LWH, nor of Henrietta's House, two of my own favourite children's books.  It isn't without charm though.  It has a rather Christian feel to it, perfectly understandable given Goudge's background (father a vicar) and her own deep faith.  But even if you are an atheist, an agnostic, or person of another faith, there is a lovely story here - if you believe in fairies, babies that just arrive, and the goodness of people.

I think I am going to push on and read (or re-read) several more of Elizabeth Goudge's novels.