The Bird in the Tree

The Bird in the Tree (Eliots of Damerosehay, #1)The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book, and the entire ‘Eliot Heritage’ trilogy!

Elizabeth Goudge writes so convincingly and yet non-offensively. As she has been a favorite author of mine since teen years (our local library stocked most of her books), I have turned to her again and again, and always took away something fresh and new to apply in my life.

David Eliot has fallen in love…with a (divorced) relative’s wife. How will this affect the family, the children, and the home that his grandmother, Lucilla, has built up over the years?

Written in the 1940’s, this novel takes us to a charming setting, a maritime village near the sea in England. Goudge’s descriptive writing in both her setting and her characters are masterful and engaging:

“Pointing a moral to the grandchildren she would wave a hand towards her Sheraton chairs with the petit-point seats worked by her grandmother in a pattern of purple pansies and crimson gilliflowers. She would tell them how the exquisite curves of the wood had been created by the hands of a craftsman, each tool in its aptness and simplicity itself a thing of beauty in his hands as patiently, line by line, he fashioned the vision that was in his mind. And the same with the grandmother’s needlework. She had spun the wool herself and dyed it to its lovely colours with the juices of plants picked upon her walks, she had seen with the eyes of her mind a vision of her garden, formalized and touched with perpetual stillness, and painted the picture with her needlework upon canvas. And now though their legs were scratched and their colours were faded, the chairs were as lovely as ever. Lovelier, Lucilla declared, because a work of art is like a human being, the more it is loved the more beautiful it grows, reflecting the gift of love like light back again to the giver.”

This book has lessons to teach us, and although they are gentle, conventional lessons, they are also timeless and enduring. Is it too late for Lucilla to pass down her values to her adult grandson, the values of fidelity, self-sacrifice, duty to one’s family, and preservation of traditional family life? And, from David’s side, how can an aged grandmother possibly understand what David and Nadine are experiencing?

But Lucilla has her own story to tell, and she does it with tact and understanding, and although shocking, it is pertinent to David and Nadine’s life choices.

Elizabeth Goudge has been criticized by some for her ‘sentimental’ writing, but in reading other’s reviews, I am pleased to see that I am not the only reader who finds comfort, encouragement and cheer, in her novels. She writes sympathetically about the human personality and cleverly teaches us to laugh at ourselves and our human foibles while attempting to understand the complicated emotions and circumstances of life that sway us.

There is so much more to say here, but once again, I came away from this lovely novel (that others have done so much better at reviewing than my own attempt here!), refreshed and reminded to take joy in the little everyday things of life that, taken and added one by one, build up to a stable foundation to withstand the tests of time.

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About Theresa

I live in an old farmhouse in upstate New York (no, *not* the big city!) in the country with my family, two dogs, two calves, and two horses. I love to cross stitch, quilt, read, and look at needlework blogs :) and I love coffee *and* tea!
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6 Responses to The Bird in the Tree

  1. hopeinbrazil says:

    Lovely review. I keep meaning to re-read the trilogy but always get sidetracked. Maybe this summer…

  2. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    What I love about Goudge’s books is how the “lessons,” which are real and profound, are rendered through deeply involving us in what feel like real people’s lives and experiences. That’s why I personally don’t find them sentimental — they’re more complex than that. If they have a fault, maybe it’s the heightened level of emotional intensity that most of us never reach. But is that a flaw in the book or in ourselves?

  3. That is a viewpoint I hadn’t thought of! thanks for sharing it : )

  4. CLM says:

    I loved Goudge as a teen although must admit I don’t recall the adult books well (other than the one about Lucy Walter). It was The Little White Horse I read again and again. You are inspiring me to look for the ones packed away in the attic and begin a big reread.

    Also, as an adult, working in publishing I met Eileen Goudge and asked if she was any relation. She said, “distant,” and didn’t seem to value our Elizabeth, which made me not really value her brasher style.

    • Theresa says:

      That’s interesting! I have wondered the same thing… if Eileen G. is a relative!
      I hope you *do* find those books in the attic. I think you would enjoy them!

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