Page Turner: One Goudge good, two Goudges great

Click to follow

Elizabeth Goudge was a favourite writer of mine as a child, and in my mid-teens I began to seek out her rich, evocative adult fiction. I hadn't thought about her for years, but recently I got two books by her within a matter of days. First Capuchin's 766-page edition of her lush romance Green Dolphin Country (£11.99) thumped on to the desk; then a few days later a lavish edition of the children's classic The Little White Horse, arrived, featuring the original illustrations by C Walter Hodges (Swan £20).

Goudge's grown-up books were written with all the wonder and verve of her children's books. Others worth hunting down are The White Witch, set during the English Civil War, which anticipates Kate Mosse in its use of Tarot cards as a motif, while Towers in the Mist follows Walter Raleigh's student years in Tudor Oxford. Children and eccentric adults form strong alliances in her books, and there's a wonderful generosity of spirit at work; one of the most appealing characters in The Little White Horse is a hunchbacked dwarf, while GDC features a sympathetic portrait of a horribly deformed sailor. A devout Christian, Goudge was always keen to stress the beauty within.

Next year sees the release of the film version of The Little White Horse, entitled The Secret of Moonacre, and starring Dakota Blue Richards, who played Lyra in The Golden Compass. I expect that this, rather than book cupboard magic, is the reason for Goudge's sudden re-emergence on the literary scene. Still, it's a good excuse to revisit her thrilling tale of adventure.

Alan Garner, the magus of Cheshire, was another huge influence on me, especially his novel The Owl Service , based on a story from the Mabinogion. The DVD of the 1969 children's TV series has recently been released (Granada £15) and it is a truly astonishing piece of work. There are fine performances by the young actors Francis Wallis, Gillian Hills and Michael Holden as the trio of moody teenagers cooped up in a cursed Welsh valley whose lives begin to follow the tragic pattern of ancient legend. Production notes make clear that the shoot was a profound experience for all concerned, filled with portents and odd coincidences. It is truly spooky to learn that Holden, playing the likeable Welsh boy Gwyn, was murdered in an unprovoked attack in a London bar just eight years after filming.

Comments