The Heart of the Family, by Elizabeth Goudge
It’s simply astonishing that a few months ago I barely recognized this writer's name, and now she is of major importance to me. Even to say I barely recognized her name is almost an overstatement: it was the sort of faint uncertain recognition that one is not even sure really is recognition, and not just suggestibility.
I just finished this book, which I like even better than the other one I read, Pilgrim’s Inn. I’m not going to say it’s better, objectively, but for subjective reasons I like it a little better. I’m not even going to try to do it justice in a quick post, but I’ll say this: Elizabeth Goudge is surely the equal, at least, of C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams in her ability to convey spiritual truth in fiction. Which is not to say that her work resembles either of theirs in any direct way, only that it is as true and deep as theirs.
It’s a curious thing, this 20th century English Christian literature (The Heart of the Family was published in 1953, Pilgrim’s Inn in 1948. At just the time when the world most needed it, when Christianity seemed almost dead as a cultural and artistic and intellectual force, so many writers gave it a new life, by seeing it and presenting it in a way different from older ways, yet entirely in harmony with them, a way that could include and acknowledge the modern world and modern habits of mind. The word “fresh” appears frequently in this book, beginning with the first line of the epigraph, from Hopkins: “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” Goudge’s work not only expresses that idea, but is a manifestation of it. It makes the idea that the Faith could ever become truly outmoded, much less obsolete, appear ridiculous.
Although today is a holiday, I considered putting in most of the day at my job, though from here at home rather than in the office. I’m very glad I didn’t. It was a great pleasure to read the last hundred pages or so of this book within one day, rather than in the five-or-ten-page bites that are my normal mode of reading during the work week.
Labels: elizabeth goudge