A stunning read – The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goodge


In a cathedral city a watchmaker feels the magic of the night, a Dean despairs of ever making any difference at all, a young boy is beaten by his master, the watchmaker’s sister expresses her bitterness through miserlyness and piety – and her maid is full of joy despite it all. Gradually their and others’ paths converge, with results that change their individual lives inordinately.

When I was in hospital for a few days with Kezia and everything was a bit mad and dramatic my mother prescribed this book as something gentle and lovely to read. I didn’t actually start it until the worst of things were over – but nevertheless I found myself completely enchanted. It runs like a clear gentle stream down a mountainside: taking its time but showing each moment and character with beauty, sympathy and understanding.

The characters are the triumph here; the book concerns their varied effect on one another and how this changes the course of their lives. And each of them is magnificent, and touched my heart deeply by the time the book was done.

The plot seemed largely an undercurrent; it was toward the end of the book where events began to be the focus; perhaps because Goodge spends such a long time introducing her characters and setting. When it emerged it was pleasing and satisfying; though perhaps it would behoove the book better to kick into gear a bit quicker.

Also, though I am loath to label this Christian literature as it is certainly for anyone (and most Christian literature I’ve read isn’t great) it is brilliant to see faith illustrated in a way that is real, personal, unpretentious and accessible. It feels like so many historical books ignore or dismiss it; where this illustrated it beautifully. The Little White Horse by Goodge is one of my all time favourite books, and reading this has further convinced me to read more.

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