‘The Bird in the Tree’ was the first Elizabeth Goudge novel I’ve ever read and certainly won’t be my last.
Published in 1940, The Bird in the Tree, is the first in a trio of novels – collectively called the Eliot Chronicles. The second and third books in the trilogy are ‘The Herb of Grace’ and ‘The Heart of the Family’.
For the Eliots of Damerosehay, the family homestead, Damerosehay, as such, is very much the central character in the story.
The Eliots are a large family and their story is as intricate and detailed as most familial tales. The matriarch, Lucilla, is still living- Mother to many children and grandmother to many more.
The children- her beloved son Maurice (father to David) and Roger have died in the Great War. All who remain are an unmarried daughter, Margaret , a son Hilary- a parson, Stephen and George who lives in India.
Damerosehay means a lot to Lucilla. She found it during a particularly troubled time in her life and sold the dwindling family fortunes to create a home – a sanctuary of sorts – that would protect her and her descendants for years to come.
Damerosehay is a large homestead situated along the Hampshire Coast. Surrounded by sprawling gardens, woods and marshes – the sea is not that far away and is a part of the charm of living at Damerosehay.
Grandson David, son of her favourite child Maurice, is the apple of Lucilla’s eye. They see eye to eye on many things- one of them being their shared passion for Damerosehay. Lucilla deems that David is the true future protector of the family fortunes – and she decides to bequeath Damerosehay to him upon her death. The other grandchildren, George’s children are still too young and uninitiated as to the great value of the estate.
However, David has a guilty secret of his own to disclose- a secret that threatens to break the Eliot family apart and the homestead that provides a roof over their heads.
Rather than fight a battle with David, Lucilla trusts that David’s love for Damerosehay will win through in the end and he will forsake his private passions for the greater good of the family.
In trying to persuade David to do this, Lucilla reveals secrets from her own past that are quite personal and that provide an example of her past sacrifices for her family.
Without giving too much of the plot away – the book is a gentle dialogue on the tousle men and women have of choosing between personal gratification or making choices that benefit family and future generations.
Whilst the story was a compelling one, what drew me to the book was Goudge’s unhurried storytelling, her talent for noticing the small things in life and her gift for writing beautifully about nature.
I’m quite eager to carry on with this family saga- and follow the future fortunes of the Eliots of Damerosehay.
Have you read this particular book and do you have a favourite Goudge novel?