Every clock of importance in the aristocratic quarter of the city was in his care, intimately known to him and loved and cherished during half a lifetime Isaacs humility did not discriminate between man and man and scarcely between man and watch. Although Isaac the clockmaker and the Dean belong to completely different social circles, they become friends through their shared interests in horology (clockmaking), and they begin to affect each others lives in unexpected ways. Equally important are the non-human characters in the story: the town cathedral that inspires the Dean and many others, but whose size and darkness scare Isaac to death. As the Dean watches over the city in his twilight years, he learns more than he ever thought he would about loving and helping people, and how much the people around him also love him.
"About the novels of Elizabeth Goudge there is always something of the fairy-tale, and The Dean's Watch is full of the enchantment of goodness- it has the timelessness that marks the author's best work" The Scotsman" From the back cover of my copy - & I don't know if I can improve on this review quotation. For me, the best of Goudge's writing has that quality.
At first The Dean's Watch seems no more consequential than a lovely tour through a picturesque English village, with a little talk about the town's history and the craft of watchmaking offered after tea. Then the first accident happens: Isaac Peabody, an elderly, desperately shy watchmaker has two repaired watches to return to their owners, but somehow, a watch paper inscribed with a bit of doggerel verse has gone missing from one customer's watch and ends up inserted in the watchcase of the brilliant and terrifying Dean of Ely's great cathedral.
But the center is truly the Cathedral city itself. It too, works like a time piece. The city in England that grows as a market town in the fens, around the Cathedral on its hill. And we get here 4 to 10 exact personal prisms of individual personalities for the people who have lived in this fen placed city, all of their lives. They are everyday people. But beyond this tremendous frame for the art in this novel- Elizabeth Goudge has a masterpiece of individuals' evaluations upon themselves in the center in spectacular oils. They are flawed, these everyday people. Read it, and see if you don't see similarities in your own life. 6 Stars And I know they were not contemporaries, but why is Dickens read and not Goudge.
In The Dean's Watch, the bothersome elements include the complete blurring of the lines between the Catholicism in the history of the fictional cathedral town and the (presumably) Church of England diocese now established there; and too much of a sense of spiritual things being bound up in things and placesi.e. the way it always seems to be the Cathedral itself exercising some sort of mystical influence over the people, not purely their relationship to God. The theme of the story is the beauty that results from people showing genuine love (not in a romantic sense) for each other, and mostly this seems to be correctly traced back to the influence of divine love on them.
Whenever I feel a real need for comfort and truth I know I can turn to Elizabeth Goudge's books and find it in abundance.
Until now life for him had meant the aridity of earthly duty and the dews of God. Now he was aware of something else, a world that was neither earth nor heaven, a heartbreaking, fabulous, lovely world where the conies take refuge in the rainbowed hills and in the deep valleys of the unicorns the songs are sung that men hear in dreams, the world that the poets know and the men who make music." Even in her realistic stories, like this one - set in a Cathedral city in England during the 1870s - there is the trademark Goudge whimsy, always alive to the magic of the world. It refers, on the literal level, to the ancient timepiece that was handed down to the Dean (Adam Ayscough), and which he later bequeaths to Isaac Peabody, the watchmaker.
Elizabeth Goudges writing style is rich and descriptive and bears a fairytale quality, yet tells stories of realistic settings and daily life. I adore stories that show broken lives put back together by Gods love. Just like the human characters, you wish you could know this setting in person! It makes the story tangibleour lives are full of physical objects that we ascribe importance to, and that come to symbolize to us significant events or people. I know Im above-average sentimental, but all of us hold on to objects because of the people they remind us of, or the feelings they conjure.
And Miss Montague, a very wise and wonderful old woman who knows that love is the answer. Now to track down a copy for my own shelves, preferably one with the lovely line drawings by A R Whitear.
Elizabeth Goudge was an English author of novels, short stories and children's books. Goudge was awarded the Carnegie Medal for The Little White Horse (1946), the book which J.