GREEN DOLPHIN STREET by Elizabeth Goudge

Is it Marianne, or Marguerite? Poor William could never remember the names of the two sisters, even though they had very different personalities. Marianne was a fiery independent woman, who would not have been out of place in the 21st century. Her gentle sister Marguerite had more old-fashioned qualities. When William had successfully made a life for himself in New Zealand, he decided to write home to St. Pierre in Guernsey, and ask for the hand of the woman he loved. The woman he loved was gentle Marguerite. But in the letter he wrote to their father, he asked for Marianne.

So Marianne set off for an unknown place, happy to be shed of provincial St. Pierre that hemmed her in. Fiery and courageous, she made a success of herself in New Zealand, taking the inevitable hardships in stride. She had no idea that she was not the bride her husband had in mind until they returned to Guernsey.

The scene where she confronts her sister Marguerite with her knowledge that she was the wrong bride is one of my favorites. One doesn’t expect nuns to be speechless with laughter, but this scene is such a luminous one, for the laughter, the love and the forgiveness.

Elizabeth Goudge (1900 -1984) is a mostly forgotten author, but at her best, she married wonderful storytelling with spiritual depth. I often wish I could write like her.