A world apart – Elizabeth Goudge

An aerial shot of the coast and Bucklers Hard

Each time I read a book, I find something new, born of how I’m feeling at the time, even how old I am, where I am in life.  This time, after being bowled over by her descriptions of Milford On Sea and Keyhaven in Hampshire, it was Elizabeth’s description of the matriarch, Lucilla that had me transfixed in ‘The Bird in the Tree’.  Earlier, I’d accepted her autocracy over the family, but suddenly, I could see her as the controlling dragon she was.  Of course, I read this not only as a more mature woman (!!!!), but also from the outlook of this new century where the family unit is ever weakened, and Grandparents have little power anymore over the fragmented family.

The family for some reason, worship the ground that Lucilla treads. When she decides to buy Damerosehay, no one dares to tell her that it just wasn’t affordable, they all just secretly chip in and let her think her pearls have paid for it. Elizabeth describes Lucilla’s beauty of lovely white hair and high cheekbones and good, trim figure with an admiration, that it is her vitality and grace that charms everyone.  Ok, so a charming old lady, but in the book, she manages to get David and Nadine, so deeply in love, to give up their dreams of marriage. Whether Lucilla is right or not I’ll get to another time.  Maybe the relationship is sort incestuous as David is Nadine’s ex- husbands nephew, but…..

She also complains when she thinks the children are not telling her something, and gets frustrated when they wont bend to her will – and often has a headache and takes to her bed.  There is also a laziness, an inertia, or is it a love? It happens in all three books is when someone gives her a hard cushion behind the back or an unwated rug, she wont remove it herself, but sits and suffers until someone perceptive removes this.

A true Victorian matriarch, building the unity of the family, yet one thing really spoke to me the loudest.  It was the feeling, knowing as I do, that Lucilla is based on Elizabeth’s mother, that actually she loathes this woman and her control over the family, but is too polite and scared to come out and say it directly!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lucina
    Aug 11, 2012 @ 20:09:31

    My interpretation was that Lucilla doesn’t refuse the hard cushion or whatever because she doesn’t want to hurt the feelings of the person who has put it there. I liked her – though I’ve only read The Bird in the Tree so far. And I think she was against the David/Nadine relationship because of the hurt it would cause to other people. Also, it’s hinted that Nadine is a tad on the selfish/vain side and wouldn’t be good enough for David. My humble opinion only….


    • annarashbrook
      Aug 12, 2012 @ 17:42:19

      Absolutely, I agree! It was just that on this reading, and knowing how EG was dominated by her mother (and Lucilla is based on her),this time it suddenly struck me that there was this subtext, that actually EG at times really disliked her but wouldn’t say so consciously, the text says what the text does not say!!!!!!!! Wait till you see how she meddles in the Herb of Grace – and meddling it is, although its all for the greater good! At times I have a great sympathy for Nadine. I meant to say also that sadly Damerosehay was demolished and is now an awful block of flats.


  2. Lucina
    Aug 12, 2012 @ 19:53:12

    Yes, I will see what I think of Lucilla when I’ve read The Herb of Grace…
    How sad that Damerosehay is now a block of flats! Although it sounded as though it was half falling down (in a genteel manner) anyway.


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