“The Heart of the Family” is the third and last volume of the Eliot Family trilogy. I wish there were three more! This book continues the story of Lucilla Eliot and her family and focuses mainly on David, Lucilla’s grandson, his wife Sally and their two children.
Sebastian Weber has a lot to recover from. He has lost everything in the war; his family, his health, and his emotional well-being. Recovering from his incarceration in a concentration camp, Sebastian is really not a healthy guy… and then he meets David Eliot the actor. David is handsome, successful, with a lovely wife and children, and Sebastian in his emotional upheaval finds that unlike most of the world, he simply does not like, or even admire, David Eliot.
How the author weaves together these lives in the aftermath of World War 2 makes for a pleasant story. I found this novel to be character driven rather than plot driven, lacking the twists and turns of action-filled events. Instead, the author concentrates on the ‘inner man’, asking questions all of us struggle with at one time or another. How do we heal from man’s inhumanity to man? is it possible to forgive those who rob us of our strongest loves?
“Yet it would be hard to stop hating, when hatred had been the source of his strength for so long. It had been like food to him while he clung to his endurance. It had been life. Without hatred he would feel hideously weak. It might take him a long time to learn to let go of hatred…”
Mrs. Wilkes is the family cook and she is a treasure!
“There now,” said Mrs. Wilkes when she had finished. “Coming on to rain again. Bad for the ‘arvest, and I’ll never get me washing dry. But there it is. There’s One Above, and there’s the weather, and it ain’t no good fighting either on ’em. If you’ve finished I’ll take your tray. Like a cupper tea?”
“I’m not English,” said Sebastian. “I’ve no great passion for tea.”
“Well, there, it mightn’t mix with the sherry,” said Mrs. Wilkes. “Seeing it’s raining, you might ‘ave a nice lay down.”
It was a command. Obediently Sebastian removed his shoes while Mrs. Wilkes folded up the quilt…”There now,” said Mrs. Wilkes, departing with the tray. “Out of ‘arm’s way.”
Lucilla still has a part to play, even at 91. Hilary (one of my favorite characters in the series), makes his reappearance also with his wisdom and gentle advice. How Goudge so creatively crafted her characters with such insightful of the human persona constantly amazes me.
“The Heart of the Family” is occasionally sad and introspective (and of the three in the trilogy, probably my least favorite). It is about a journey within the lives of several of the characters; their own personal choices and journey toward wholeness, hope, and peace. For Sebastian personally, it is the story of his journey from death to life.
I read slowly and am still thinking about the characters and their struggles!
“Sebastian relaxed in a sudden blessed peace, and a happiness such as he had never expected to feel again. It was never too late for a new upspringing of that fountain of freshness that Hilary had called the grace of God. The miracle had happened. He could love.”