The Heart of the Family

by Elizabeth Goudge | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: Global Overview for this book
Registered by ermintrude75 of Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom on 4/18/2004
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1 journaler for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by ermintrude75 from Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom on Sunday, April 18, 2004
The third in a trilogy centred on the Eliot family of Damerosehay. The second book, The Herb of Grace (also called Pilgrim's Inn), was on a brilliantly eclectic bookshelf in a holiday cottage I stayed in last year, and having devoured it in a few days I was delighted to find the sequel in a charity shop!

This book follows the arrival of a new secretary for David, son of the matriarch Lucilla and now resident at Damerosehay with wife Sally and their children. Sebastian (the secretary) initially dislikes David, but of course the family win him over and help him come to terms with his own secrets. This is a novel of a very different time, and while the pacing is sometimes odd (some seemingly insignificant things take ages, other more important things seem to be all tied up in the time gap between chapters), and the story/characters can be almost overwhelmingly middle-class and rather sentimental, it's a an appealing glimpse of another sort of life (large, close family, rural country-house living, simple pleasures). It's no earth shattering read, but a nice bit of escapism. Would probably make much more sense if I had read the first in the series :)

[24th September 2004 - I managed to find no less than five Elizabeth Goudge books in a charity shop in Hythe recently, including the other two in this series: The Bird in the Tree and The Herb of Grace. Hurrah for charity shops! :) ]

Journal Entry 2 by ermintrude75 from Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom on Monday, February 13, 2006
I finally read the trilogy together, and it's hard to separate them so this review is for all three.

I came to Elizabeth Goudge's writing via The Little White Horse (as a child) and then Green Dolphin Country and The White Witch. So far all of her books bring split reactions - one the one hand I do like the storytelling and the evocation of a gentler time. The characters are varied and individual, not forming an amorphous mush like some family-based sagas, and the settings are beautifully drawn. On the other hand, many of the characters seem to become infuriating at one point or another, making me want to give the children a good slap and the grown-ups a piece of my mind. Perhaps that is the sign of a well-written and involving book, but really, most of the children are such enormous brats that they would be candidates for the House of (not so) Tiny Tearaways (except Ben, who is just completely wet for most of the series). The adults seem to waver between being utterly manipulative (particlary Lucilla, matriarch and tower of strength / scheming old witch depending on your view) and complete doormats (Lucilla's daughter Margaret, whose main crime seems to be being a bit plain and frumpy). There's a strong emphasis on doing what's right (morally) rather than always following your heart, although of course it all works out in the end.

Enjoyable overall, but I don't think I will revisit the books for a while.

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