City of Bells

What could be a more delightful prospect than dinner on a tray by the fire (Chinese take-out, at that!) and a pot of orange blossom tea, and a brand new (old) Elizabeth Goudge book? I was so excited to start this one last night—I felt like I was spending the evening with an old friend. And so I was, for Elizabeth and I go way back. Even before I had had the intensely wonderful pleasure of reading one of her books for myself, I remember my mother following me around the house with whatever one she happened to be savoring, chanting whole passages and pages out loud to me.

“Just listen to this one more—it’s so beautiful!”

A binge of two or more of her novels became known as a ‘Goudge Smoudge’ in our home, a phrase coined by my dad and strangely apt, if nonsensical. For when you are reading an Elizabeth Goudge book, you are living in her world—a world alive with beauty and sparkling with redemption. It’s a world peopled with very ordinary characters, men, women and children you’d love to know and be friends with. Genuine human beings with hurts and heartaches and disillusionments; saintly spiritual benefactors who point them—and us—in the way of grace. And always, the under-girding loveliness of England, a character in itself.

An Elizabeth Goudge should never be read without a notebook close at hand for the jotting of quotes and page numbers. Here is a sampling from just the first few chapters:

It’s often necessary in life to do nothing, but so few people do it nicely.

It takes a light heart to make light pastry.

In this beautiful world God had made joy was a duty.

She noticed that certain things were lovely and she stored them in her memory, taking them out later and fastening them together to make a dream, as women will embroider a posy of flowers with colored silks.

from A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge


  1. Elizabeth Goudge is one of my all-time favorite authors! It’s a pity she’s not very widely known, so I’m always glad to see your posts about her books. A City of Bells is one of my favorites.

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