The Rosemary Tree, Elizabeth Goudge, Coward-McCann, 1956, 381 pp
Elizabeth Goudge is an author who can always raise me up from whatever slough of despond I get my self into. After reading the dark novels I love, I go to her to restore my balance and faith in mankind. She never lets me down. She wrote over twenty novels in her lifetime, most of which are now out of print though any library with a good fiction selection carries her books.
The Rosemary Tree is a story about people trying to deal with the greatly changed post WWII world. The central family is comprised of John Wentworth, a vicar, his wife and three daughters who live in the vicarage of a small English village along with Harriet, the nanny who raised John. Nearby in the manor house is John's aunt.
On a typically quiet day, formerly famous author Michael Stone wanders into town. He has a troubled past and in fact has just been released from prison. The vicar's wife is his former sweetheart, so complications of the heart arise. Goudge's books often include a wise woman. Harriet plays that role in this one. Somehow through love and understanding and Christian charity, Michael is rehabilitated as a human being and the vicar's family remains intact.
The characters are wonderfully drawn, the wit is acerbic, the natural life of the English countryside is as healing as the palatably rendered Christian philosophy which is Elizabeth Goudge's trademark. She can almost send me back into the church but actually what she does is remind me of the universal truths in any religion by which I try to live my life.
Finally there is five year old Winkle, one of her masterpieces of a child. This author never married or had children which may be why she has such a clear-eyed view of what it is like to be a child, to have that mixture of wonder and mischievousness that kids have when they haven't been too messed up by those rearing them. A thread of the supernatural runs through Goudge's writing and in The Rosemary Tree, Winkle daydreams back to her spiritual home universe.
(The Rosemary Tree is out of print, available at libraries or used book sellers.)