DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB

BLOG #39, SERIES #3
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #13
ELIZABETH GOUDGE’S CITY OF BELLS
September 26, 2012

1948 Pocket Book copy of City of Bells

Those of you who love our Christmas in My Heart® stories may remember my recent story, “Message in a Book,” in Christmas in My Heart 20. In it I referenced a passage from Goudge’s City of Bells:

“‘A bookseller,’ said Grandfather, ‘is the link between mind and mind, the feeder of the hungry, very often the binder up of wounds. There he sits, your bookseller, surrounded by a thousand minds all done up neatly in cardboard cases; beautiful minds, courageous minds, strong minds, wise minds, all sorts and conditions. And there come into him other minds, hungry for beauty, for knowledge, for truth, for love, and to the best of his ability he satisfies them all. . . . Yes . . . it’s a great vocation” (City of Bells, p. 95).

* * *

For several evenings running, I’ve been wrestling with a decision: which book should I choose to anchor our second dozen Books of the Month? I’ve been in a reverie, induced by the haunting sight of falling aspen leaves in trees that have once again transformed Conifer Mountain into one heartbreakingly beautiful glow. Made doubly so by the realization that in only days the aspens will stand naked, stripped of their glory, not to be clothed again until spring. As a result, the book decision was colored by my autumnal mood, tinged with the poignant thought, Who that I love may not live to see autumn leaves fall again? Might even I not be there to see them fall?

So the chosen book had to match my mood. Finally, it came down to one author, Elizabeth Goudge, the Christian British writer (1900-1984) who, over the years, has become an integral part of my spiritual and philosophic DNA.

She wrote so few books that it almost broke my heart to read the last of them. Now I can only re-drink at her wells of insight into this thing we call life. She wrote so few because she poured everything in her into each one. It is impossible to merely breeze through a Goudge book, reason being: she’s not just a “good read,” she’s a “great read.” She had to have agonized over each and every sentence before she’d signed off on it with her publisher. So I find myself savoring them more each time I come back to a given book.

And her fictional children! I don’t know how she did it—for I certainly can’t!—, how she somehow retained, as an adult, the incredible gift of still being able to think as a child, to reason as a child, to love as a child.

And it was so difficult for me to choose just one of her romances–treasure chests such as The Dean’s Watch, Green Dolphin Street, Pilgrim’s Inn, Rosemary Tree, The Scent of Water, Towers in the Mist, etc. In the end, however, the one that best matched my mood was City of Bells, for as I read it I could hear and see the bells of Canterbury Cathedral that helped give birth to my Christmas love story, “Evensong.”

After reading City of Bells in March of 1991, I wrote, “I do believe this one is Goudge’s greatest book.” I’ll be most interested in your response to it. I’ll be exceedingly surprised if you don’t immediately become another Goudgeaholic and track down every Goudge book you can lay your hands on!

In America, Goudge was published by Coward-McCann; City of Bells in 1937, Crowell-Collier in 1947, and Pocket Book in 1948. Keep in mind that sometimes the American editions feature alternative titles from the original British editions.

Happy hunting!

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