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The British novelist Elizabeth Goudge’ s books are full of magical, beautifully observed settings, memorable characters and amazing occurrences.  These are books you want to walk into and shut the door behind you. Who wouldn’t want to live in the beautiful, falling-down medieval inn, The Herb of Grace of the book of the same name, where the children find the mysterious mural in the jam closet..and then there’s the mysterious couple from the houseboat.

But, as always in Goudge’ s books, the biggest drama is deep within the human spirit. The Herb of Grace is part of a trilogy that explores the repercussions of an adulterous relationship on a family and particularly on the two lovers. So while children explore a mythical-feeling forest and a jaded actor creates a deeply-felt Christmas pageant, the real work of the story goes on beneath the surface, a drama of sin, redemption, acceptance, and grace.

A mystical current runs through all of Goudge’ s work, a blend of Anglican mysticism and nature mysticism. She tackles the impossible, over and over again. What does it feel like to give over your life to God, to experience grace, to repent? Whatever your beliefs, it is fascinating to watch someone take on these questions with such imagination and lyricism.  Does she succeed? Is success possible when writing about internal spiritual struggles and states? Try one of these and decide for yourself.

The City of Bells

The Herb of Grace (also published as Pilgrim’s Inn), part of The Eliot Family Trilogy

The Dean’s Watch

Green Dolphin Street

Have I mentioned lately that Goudge also wrote J.K. Rowling’ s favorite children’s book, The White Horse? (Yes, I have). Also one of my favorites, Linnets and Valerians.  Much of her work is out of print but sometimes I can find something on  http://www.powells.com/ or check out her author page on http://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Goudge/e/B000APM9OA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1413125822&sr=8-2-ent

*I’m doing a off-and-on series on forgotten women novelists, of whom Goudge is the first. Stay tuned.

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