Archive for Island Magic

Elizabeth Goudge and Her Books

The Guernsey Society was formed in London in 1943 (whilst the Channel Islands were under German Occupation), and a number of high profile Guernsey exiles, as well as prominent UK residents with Guernsey connections, were invited to join in order to lobby the British Government on behalf of the occupied islanders, and evacuees in the UK.

After the war, the Society continued, but as more of an social organisation, connecting Guernsey people who did not live in the island, and those with a special interest in the island, with news from Guernsey. The prime means of doing this was through a magazine, The Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society. It appears from the article, that Elizabeth Goudge joined in 1947 (as it mentions she had recently become a member), and had written this article for publication in The Quarterly Review. (The magazine, The Review, moved to three times a year in 1971, and has continued to be published ever since).

The Guernsey Society still organises meetings, talks and social gatherings in the UK and further afield.



GREEN DOLPHIN COUNTRY. By Elizabeth Goudge. (Hodder & Stoughton. 12/6 net.)

This novel was first published in September, 1944, and since that date has run through no fewer than five printings. It has been immensely popular on both sides of the Atlantic, no doubt partly due to the publicity given to it when it was awarded the Louis B. Mayer prize of £30,000, for the best novel of the year published in America. The film rights have been acquired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The book has caused much interest in Guernsey.

Below we print Miss Goudge’s own comment on her story, answering a number of critics and questioners, who have sought to “recognise” many of her descriptions of buildings and localities described.

We welcome this distinguished novelist as a recently joined member of the Guernsey Society.


I paid my first visit to Guernsey when I was eighteen months old (and that was forty-six years ago!), and my last in 1930.

My grandfather was Adolphus Collenette, famous for his weather lore, and my grandmother was Marie-Louise Ozanne, who was brought up in Hauteville House, now the Victor Hugo Museum. My great-grandfather sold the house to Victor Hugo. He came to see it before buying it, and my grandmother took him over it on her eighteenth birthday. So that on one side I am proud to call myself a Guernseywoman.

I spent many glorious holidays in Guernsey in my childhood, and I loved it so intensely that my memories of the Guernsey of those days are all extraordinarily radiant, and the most vivid that I have. Guernsey must cast a very strong spell over her children and her half-children that the very thought of her in after years can bring such happiness.

My first bit of writing to meet with any success was a novel about Guernsey called Island Magic, that I wrote after my last visit there, when I stayed with Miss Cownellan in her cabin at Le Gouffre. I had had no success with my writing until I began to write about Guernsey.

In their childhood my mother and her brother and sisters lived in a house then called Le Hêchet, that is now the Alexandra Nursing Home, and my mother’s stories of the Le Hêchet of those days were always to me more exciting than any fairy tales. Miss Cownellan, when I stayed with her, told me more Guernsey stories, and adding to them my own childhood’s memories wrote Island Magic.

The family of children in this book I called du Frocq, after a Guernsey ancestress, and I loved them so much that I wrote short stories about them for years. Those stories came out in English and American magazines, and I was always getting letters from readers asking for “more about the du Frocqs”. But though I have enjoyed writing about Guernsey more than any other place I have liked writing about my own homes too.

I was born in Wells in Somerset, where my father was principal of the Theological College, and later we lived at Ely in Cambridgeshire, and those two lovely cathedral cities together made the Townminster of my book The City of Bells. In 1923 my father became Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford where we lived in an old home in Tom Quad, Christ Church, and I wrote about Oxford in Towers in the Mist. When my father died just before the war, my mother and I came to live in Devon, not far from the sea, where we have the seagulls always with us, and where the narrow lanes and the fuchsias and the escallonia bushes remind us both of Guernsey. I describe this bit of country where we live in The Castle on the Hill. Then I found myself longing to write about Guernsey again, and in odd times all through the war I wrote Green Dolphin Country, and once again Guernsey brought me luck.

As all that I wrote about Guernsey has been written away from it, I have never made any attempt to be topographically correct. My Island is inspired by Guernsey but in neither of my books have I actually called it Guernsey, it has been just “the Island”. Several readers have written to ask where exactly is the convent on the cliff that I describe in Green Dolphin Country, and I have had to reply with shame that I’m afraid it isn’t anywhere except in my imagination! I have always felt that I owed the island an apology for treating it in this imaginative way, and I hope Guernsey people will forgive me.









Source: ‘Elizabeth Goudge and Her Books’, Quarterly Review of the Guernsey Society, Spring 1947, volume III no 1, pp. 11-12.

Elizabeth’s Legacy

by Ruth St Clare.

Thank you so much for the web site of E Goudge.  I have respected and admired her since childhood.  Now I admire her even more.

I am sure that had computers existed and had I not been a slow learner then ( not now)  I would have been one of the  people who  came  to look at a person who could so well reflect the spiritual in a world of war and suffering.

This lady was the key to my visiting Guernsey ( the copy of Green Dolphin Country was damaged so I did not know where the Island was), seeing Mont St. Michele and St Malo.

I finally worked out that it must be Guernsey.  When I left the ferry I met an elderly lady and ask her if the family even existed and she  snarled at me.  I knew then I had found the right place …. so instead of upsetting anyone else I went off to the cemetery.  I smiled and wondered who they were and if they had any real relationship to the book.  It did not really matter to me… I found the place and names

The only name I did not find was William Ozanne and then sitting in an open air cafe and musing to myself whether on not he existed I looked across the road and saw  William Ozanne Hall.

I believe my life was touched for the better because I was privileged to read Elizabeth Goudge’s books.   Many years ago a paper back of Green Dolphin Country was available and I bought a copy and loaned it to a friend.  They never gave it back… forgot they had it…..sigh… not all people with brains know how to use them.

My friends found the same book in New Zealand  in a second hand book shop and they sent it to me.  How wonderful of them and I have the book today and I use it for any of my senior  English students who show that they are  of the thinking nature.

A fourteen year old French lass is reading it now.  I am not sure yet how she will cope with it as she is still at an intermediate English level.

Maybe you could condense Green Dolphin County or Island Magic ( this may not need condensing, I can’t remember!) and try to have  Miss Goudge’s work  included in school children’s texts for English.  They did this with Nicholas Monserrat’s  Cruel Sea.  If you could do this I think you would be doing a world service.

Ruth St. Claire

Dear Miss St Clare,
Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me, I’m pleased that you enjoyed the visit to the site.
I agree that Elizabeth’s work should be on an English Literature Syllabus but have a horror at condensing any writers work, especially one of my favourite authors. Which bits would you leave out?

I think that most of her books are compact, with the exception of Green Dolphin Country and Child From The Sea, so probably wouldn’t need much editing. Its the themes of her work which our state run schools might have a problem with.
regards Deborah

Hi Deborah

Yes I would hate task of trying to edit Elisabeth Goudge’s work.  It seems a colossal cheek.  On the other had if some one could manage the challenge perhaps young people would be inspired to find and read  her work (unabridged), as adults.

I suppose it is just the desire to share with others. Young people would have the chance to see a “master” English writer.   I teach English now so I suppose I think about it from the perspective of  some of the students here ….. especially the  young teenagers… sigh they might not be permitted to read Green Dolphin Country unabridged.

It was literature that educated me until I reached a stage where I could think and retain  what I learned and now I help others to find joy, delight,  and the rewards of reading.

Best wishes,