Here is the synopsis on the back of my edition from Hendrickson Publishers:
In a remote mid-nineteenth-century English town, cathedral Dean Adam Ayscough holds a deep love for his parishioners and townspeople, though he is held captive by an irrational shyness and, ironically, an intimidating manner. Yet when an obscure watchmaker who does not think he and God have anything in common strikes up an unlikely friendship with the Dean, it leads to an unusual spiritual awakening in both men that eventually reaches out to the entire community.
It’s hard to know where to start on a review. Maybe I could list the many things that made the book for me?
Elizabeth Goudge’s writing style is rich and descriptive and bears a fairytale quality, yet tells stories of realistic settings and daily life. It brings out the beautiful in this world. She shows that, despite sadness and ugliness, there is much that is lovely that we should dwell upon.
It’s a tale of redeemed lives. I adore stories that show broken lives put back together by God’s love. She offers rich spiritual insights that you can apply to your own life. She puts you in adoration of the Holy One; her writing imparts reverence for Him.
It has characters whose souls sink into yours so that you wish you knew them. (Most of them, anyway. There are those who need a lot of improvement before they’d be halfway pleasant companions!) They are each unique and easy to distinguish from one another, which makes for a very enjoyable and realistic cast of characters. They are deep—Goudge delves into the innermost spirits of many of them. They transform, like real people. They are English Victorians and therefore lead interesting lives, vastly different from my own, but yet familiar and loveable because I know aspects of their world from classic literature.
The setting is a character in itself. The cathedral, the city (which is never named), the fen country (located in eastern England, north of London), the clockmaker’s shop—they are all portrayed in so much detail it’s as if you were there seeing them. Just like the human characters, you wish you could know this setting in person!
|Hereford Cathedral, but this is something like how I picture the cathedral in The Dean's Watch|
She attaches importance and symbolism to objects (usually beautiful objects you want to feast your eyes upon). There are such scrumptious things in The Dean’s Watch as a celestial clock (clocks and watches galore, actually), cathedral carvings and stained glass, and three darling umbrellas. It makes the story tangible…our lives are full of physical objects that we ascribe importance to, and that come to symbolize to us significant events or people. I know I’m above-average sentimental, but all of us hold on to objects because of the people they remind us of, or the feelings they conjure.
The story was really well crafted. Even though some of the things that occur could be considered ordinary, they are anything but in the light of her pen. She makes life epic. At the end I almost felt the same sense of triumph against all odds that I got from the ending of Return of the King. It makes you look at your life in the same light—what will you allow God to accomplish in it?
In short, Elizabeth Goudge is the first author I’ve found who I’d wholly like to write like. I feel a kinship with her—she writes such soul-satisfying books!
Have you ever read anything by Elizabeth Goudge? What did you think?