Monday, September 07, 2009

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.

Thanks, Janet.

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.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Last Words of Elizabeth Goudge’s Father

Dear one, it is loving that matters.

(from a biography found at


Saturday, August 01, 2009

My Friend Elizabeth Goudge

This was nice to read:

...he was not old. Only sixtyish.

—Elizabeth Goudge, Pilgrim’s Inn

I was persuaded to read this book by Janet Cupo, who went so far as to supply me with a copy. I knew nothing about the author beyond a vague idea that I’d heard the name. But I’m already willing to recommend it on the basis of only the first hundred or so pages. On the surface it’s not my kind of book—it’s a woman’s book in many ways, dwelling in subtle detail on family relationships, for instance, and spending a lot of time describing houses and rooms, without any very dramatic action. But it’s extremely well written, and the people and places are very vivid, and most of all it shows a very deep spiritual insight.

The truth is I’m enjoying it more than Crime and Punishment, which was the last novel I read. I found Raskolnikov and his perpetual hostility and anxiety mostly tiresome, and was more than ready to see him off to Siberia. There were some moving scenes in Crime and Punishment, one or two of them unforgettable, but somehow Goudge is able to create more narrative tension out of psychological events than Dostoevsky does out of two ax murders.

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