22/08/2005

Gentian Hill

I do enjoy Elizabeth Goudge's novels, for a more relaxed, gentler pace. She wrote mostly in the early part of the 20th century, in a style full of imagery and evocative description.

This is a historical novel, based around a legend which is told in the book. The main character is a ten-year-old girl called Stella, who lives at a farmhouse but knows she is 'different' from the people she calls mother and father. She's a dreamer, full of wisdom and also full of questions. In modern pop-psychology she would be called a child with 'iNtuitive' preferences, loving fables and stories, and always seeing beyond what she perceives with her senses.

Stells learns something about her past, and she meets two people who change her life: a boy a few years older than herself who has deserted the Navy, and a rather remote Catholic priest. Her vision sees further than what is obvious to others, and she recognises kindred spirits in both.

It's a slow-moving book, not one to be read in a hurry. There are battles to be fought - both physical (the book is set in the time of Napoleon and Nelson) and psychological, as characters struggle to overcome their internal fears. There's a very gentle romance, and also the unfolding of a mystery - easy to guess the outcome early in the book, but beautifully written.

Not for those who like fast action or realism, but for anyone else a most delightful book.

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