Friday, July 17, 2009

The White Witch

I started to read Elizabeth Goudge’s The White Witch and am dropping in to say how much I’m loving it. I implied in my last entry that only nostalgia would inspire me to read it: imagine my delight that I get to recant! Apparently I always had good taste (good to know)! Goudge's style is lyrical, characterized by lengthy, poetic sentences, and the narrative is fascinating and fast-paced, set during the English Civil War, wholly driven by characters who are first people, second Royalists and Parliamentarians. The unusual characters are intriguing and colorful: Froniga, half gypsy, half English, lives in a neat little cottage near her English cousins, is shunned by the gypsies for not traveling, and, though a Parliamentarian, suspected of witchcraft because of her individualism; t Yoben, a Royalist who took refuge among the gypsies long ago for mysterious reasons, and is chastely in love with Froniga; Francis, an itinerant painter; and the Haslewood family, Margaret, the much put-upon wife, upset by the new Puritan regime, her husband, the loyal Robert, a Parliamentarian only because he follows a much-admired friend, and their twin children, the very ordinary Will and his intelligent, imaginative sister, Jenny, who always comes second to the adored Will but doesn't really mind (he needs the adulation).

Here’s a description of Froniga’s garden to give you an example of Goudge's beautiful prose (sometimes sentimental, but always describing nature in a way that makes you see and feel):

“The trees had been so twisted by winter storms that they lay this way and that, and one lay along the ground, but still bore apples of a moony green. Growing over it was a bush of autumn musk rose, glimmering with ivory flowers. It was wet from the rain and a gust of scent came to him as he brushed against it. There were beehives under the trees and in the rough orchard grass he trod upon fragrant growing things, bruising them. Froniga was a noted gardener and herbalist, skilled in all healing arts, with fingers that were not only green but enchanted, and her small domain always seemed to him almost intolerably prolific. He was, he supposed, a little jealous of her passionate love of plants.”

Such a good book!

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