The Herb of Grace

After Hitler, Churchill, D-Day, Band of Brothers, Pearl Harbor, staggering holocaust memoirs — heaviness and grief — it was time for a change.  My son is hacking, coughing, aching … and just needs to rest.  I’m on the edge [insert well-placed sniffle, cough-cough] and want to land on the healthy side of the equation.  This is the one day this week I am not obligated to go anywhere.  Melting snow, crackling fire, a pot of tea…what to read?

My friend Lynne suggested Elizabeth Goudge.  I haven’t yet read The Herb of Grace, purchased at Oxfam (charity shop) last year in England for £1.  It is such a treat, such a balm, such a comfort.  I’m too impatient to wait until I’m done with the book to write a full review.  One must share quotes.  I found the attitude to telephones fascinating in light of our recent pop culture technology discussions.

And she [Sally, the protagonist] vastly preferred writing a letter and walking with it to the post to using the telephone and hearing with horror her voice committing itself ot things whe would never have dreamed of doing if she’d had the time to think.

All the water-sounds are unforgettable, he said gently.  The best sound of all, I think, is the sound of ripples slapping against the hull of a boat.

And the smell of Damerosehay was just the same: the mingled scent of wood smoke, flowers, furniture polish, dogs and oil lamps.

She [Grandmother] had always been beautiful, was beautiful now, and had every intention of remaining beautiful until the end of her days, and she did not in the least begrudge either the spending of a great deal of time and trouble upon the outer facade of beauty, or the curtailing of her activities by the elimination of those which she could no longer accomplish with grace. It seemed to her children and grandchildren that she did not mind growing old.  There was nothing of desperation in the firm hold she kept upon her beauty, it was rather that she appeared to be taking good care of something entrusted to her care, but did not seem to regard it as an integral part of her.  [Don’t you know an older lady, always put together like this?] 

Lucilla knew always, and Nadine knew in her more domesticated moments, that it was home-making that mattered.  Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil.  But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilisation depended upon their quality; and it was no good weakening oneself for the brick-making by thinking too much about the flood.

Her feeling for her mother-in-law swung always between reverence and exasperation, according as the selflessness of Grandmother’s autocracy, or the autocracy of her selflessness, was uppermost.

Her [Grandmother’s] voice was full of distress.  She hated these modern inventions, telephone and wireless; they did nothing but make a noise and pour out information one was generally better without.

Lady Eliot is afraid you will not be willing to live in London?  ~ I’ll be perfectly willing, Madam.  I did tell Lady Eliot, when she asked me, that I liked the country best; but of course wherever the children are I will make myself contented. [Jill interviewing for Nannie position, emphasis mine.]

This book was published in 1948.  It’s gentle, unsentimental narrative seems appropriate post-WWII literature. Elizabeth Goudge.  A light but nourishing read.  [Don’t get confused: Eileen Goudge, Elizabeth’s niece, writes romance novels.  I know nothing about their quality.] 

Other Elizabeth Goudge books I’ve enjoyed: The Little White Horse, Green Dolphin StreetLinnets and Valerians,  The Scent of WaterThe Dean’s Watch.  


14 thoughts on “The Herb of Grace

  1. I just started Pilgrim’s Inn (I think it’s Herb of Grace, but the American title).  I’m waiting to finish Atlas Shrugged to really dive in (I’ll need a comfort read after Atlas).I just finished The Dean’s Watch a few weeks ago and read The Bird in the Tree (the first in the Elliot Family series which Herb of Grace is a part of – fabulously wonderful!) a few months ago.  And I read The Little White Horse a couple years ago, based on JK Rowling’s recommendation.Elizabeth Goudge is one of my favorites and I think she’ll eventually be considered a classic on the level of Jane Austen!

  2. Oh, my!  Can I ever relate to the first quote!  The older I get the more I despise the telephone for precisely the reason Goudge writes.  I’m longing to be free of the infernal thing one day!I’ve never read Elizabeth Goudge, but I keep hearing her name in various circles so I’m going to have to give her a try.  These little glimpses are tantalizing!

  3. Oh what a coincidence!  I just started Herb Of Grace last night and have some copying from it to put into my Commonplace Book this morning.  What a delight to see your post.  I finished The Deans Watch recently and loved it.  I am so happy to have discovered this author, how I missed her for so long is beyond me.   I am heading to Moscow,Id this weekend and then over to that used book store in Pullman in hopes of finding many Elizabeth Goudge books!P.S what kind of tea do you drink?Faith Proctor

  4. @Faith Proctor – @womanofthehouse1 – @sweetbriarpatch – The Herb of Grace is the same as Pilgrim’s InnThe Little White Horse was a private loan from our favorite (local) children’s librarian.  We traded favorite forgotten authors back and forth.  I loved the Dean’s Watch so much that I bought multiple used copies of it. I still have some, waiting for the perfect fit between the book and the recipient.  Faith, I love “Bruised Books” in Pullman.  It’s a mandatory stop whenever we are in the area.  When I was cleaning books last week, I remembered getting them at BB.  My favorite tea is PG Tips, but my stash from our UK trip ran out a month or so ago.  For straight tea, nothing added, I really enjoy a mint tea.  I love trying teas and have received some lovely gifts.  But I’ll drink Lipton if that is offered.  The only one I had to choke down was a green tea that tasted like lawn clippings.  What about you?  Which tea to you like?    

  5. So you love Elizabeth Goudge too! I read every book of hers I could get my hands on years ago, and have Herb of Grace on my “Buy later” list at Amazon. But I almost think I did read “Pilgrim’s Inn” at one time. Will have to check on that before I actually buy it, or rather see if our local library has that one. I love the quotes you wrote here and it is whetting my appetite for some Goudge – as in right now.Btw I’m glad you posted the link on Facebook – I was just quickly checking everyone’s posts and when I saw this of course had to read the rest of it!!!

  6. After writing my comment above I checked our local library for Goudge books and found 2 that I had never heard of but none of the ones you mentioned or that I had read before. Looked at Amazon and found that her books have gone into the “sky-high” price range. Think $100 and more for some of them. Sorry – that’s more than I can afford. Went to and found a lot of hers, some as little as $.01- ordered – I think – five and the shipping cost is nearly twice the cost of the books and the whole order totaled $26+. I have no idea when I might have time to read all of them but at least they will be available! Thank you so much for reminding me of her books…I don’t read the same “heavy” reading you do, but still much of what I do read is another kind of heavy and I find myself wishing for some thing lighter for a change. And her writing is so gratifying.

  7. I rented Nicholas Nickleby on Netflix on your recommendation.  I don’t think I got the same version, this one is animated!  I had never read it, so I am watching it anyway.

  8. I love Elizabeth Goudge’s books, too!  I got started on them by my mom when I was about 11 or 12.  Herb of Grace is one of my favorites, along with The Bird in the Tree and The Dean’s Watch.  (The Dean’s Watch was the first book by Goudge I read.)  I have a few of her books, and used to check every library in every town we lived in to see if they had any by her I had not yet read.  She’s definitely one to savor!

  9. @sweetbriarpatch – @womanofthehouse1 – @Faith Proctor – @mamapiano – @LauraLLD –   Okay, my friends, this question has been niggling.  How would you pronounced Damerosehay? I found this answer and I think I’ve settled on DAHM-rosé (like the wine).  I think the first half of the book I made it into a five syllable word.  It reminds me of a small village in Maine called Damariscotta.  I’m just curious if you had a pronunciation in your head or if those things don’t matter to you.  When I meet a Lori I have to know if it’s Lori or Laurie or Loree or Lory I’m speaking with.

  10. My 1st grade training in phonics always gets me in trouble when pronouncing words – I always say it in my head as though I am sounding it out phonetically – then it sticks.  So in my head it’s Dame (rhymes with “same”), Rose, Hay.  Like three words spoken.  Very choppy.  I like your version better.

  11. I’ve only read half a dozen of Goudge’s books, but I did not love them all equally.  The Middle Window was kind of weird.  And I guess I have to re-read White Horse because everyone loves it and I thought it was just okay.  Her other books, though, have been favorites.

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