Green Dolphin Country by Elizabeth Goudge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While there is a lot wrong with this book, there is so much that is right!
The Le Pastourel sisters, growing up in the picturesque town of St Pierre in Guernsey,
are separated by more than the five year age gap. Marguerite is sweet, sunny & good natured, Marianne is highly intelligent, passionate and strong willed. Both become infatuated with newcomer,William. Does a handsome face and boundless good nature make him a worthy choice for either sister? You really will wonder about this! What follows are events that are just crazy and far fetched – but Miss Goudge says this novel is based on a true story. So the fantastic can happen.
I think Marianne is one of the best fictional female characters ever. She is ahead of her time without looking like Miss Goudge wrote a twentieth century woman and dropped her in the nineteenth century. She is deeply flawed and totally believable. William eventually grows into a man worthy of the sisters’ love. The racist terms (which I don’t remember from previous reads when I was young, but they would have been in my parents’ old copy) I don’t enjoy but accept them as a product of the time.
Which shows I am a big, fat hypocrite because I found much of the New Zealand part of the story very uncomfortable reading! When Goudge has Marianne think of the Maori as children and a further passage having them as being of limited intelligence, I was really stunned and I am now curious to read Old New Zealand as reading this book is the only research Miss Goudge mentions doing. I’m familiar with the concept of Tapu, but have never heard of Tapu Maori & will be doing some research in my local museum library next time I volunteer there. Goudge is also way off on her concepts of distances and likely road conditions.It just wouldn’t be possible to travel from place to place as Goudge shows it – in particular in the South Island. Hell, I remember car trips to Northland in the 1960s taking forever because of the bad condition of the roads. I’m trying to remember which of my relatives got me (a naive young thing, fresh off the boat from Canada) that NZ country roads had so many bends because the workers were paid more if they put them in. So yes, didn’t really enjoy part three.
But , in the end Miss Goudge pulls all the strands of her narrative together really well with her familiar themes of love and redemption. I was moved to tears and can give this epic tale no less than 4.5★
My editions original cover;
I know it is the same as the cover on my parents’ copy, because a fragment has been used as a bookmark. The illustrator quite obviously has reversed the sisters’ characters!