Monday, 9 July 2007
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
This is my all-time favourite children's book. My copy, much read, dates back to when I was twelve, and has illustrations which are very-badly coloured in. When I picked it up recently to write a recommendation for a friend it was three chapters later before I could put it down.
Set in Devon in the 19th century, it tells the story of Maria, an orphan who moves from a dull London existence to Moonacre Manor, to live with her guardian. Maria's first impressions of the valley as a place of unalloyed perfection gradually give way to a realisation that there are things amiss - the Black Men who live in the forest which adjoins the Moonacre estate guard the coast fiercely, and have been known to take lambs from the village of Silverydew. Maria and her new friend Robin set out to put things right, ably assisted by both animals and humans from Moonacre.
Goudge, as always in her books, details the minutiae of everyday life which creates security and comfort, with vivid descriptions of place, texture, taste, character. Her animals are particularly good - they are strong and interactive characters without being unduly anthropomorphic. Some of Goudge's best characters are members of the Anglican clergy, and she writes about moral fortitude and integrity with a delicacy of understanding and perception which, in a cynical age, I find genuinely uplifting.
Its suitability for the iPod generation is questionable, but it's worth a try!