Rosemary Sutcliff and Elzabeth Goudge | English Civil War Novels

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Children’s writer and historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff and Elizabeth Goudge were linked, ‘Anne’ comments in response to an earlier post:

Interestingly, Sutcliff and Goudge corresponded with each other, and Goudge wrote publicity comments to go with both Sword at Sunset and Rider on a White Horse.

To me Rider of the White Horse goes hand-in-hand with Elizabeth Goudge’s ‘White Witch’, another novel of the English Civil War which is also magically evocative. 

Goudge’s style is in some ways reminiscent of Sutcliff’s – she captures the natural world with similar vivid, luminous detail and sense of divine mystery, though Goudge’s stories differ from Sutcliff’s in that they contain a high integral degree of Christian mysticism. Goudge can sometimes tend toward religious sentimentality, whereas Sutcliff is much more unsentimental, and pragmatic – what I see as her ‘soldierly’ approach to life. I don’t think she would mind me saying she found the pagan worldview in many ways more sympathetic – she did comment somewhere to that effect herself.

Sutcliff covered the English Civil War in a young adult book as well, called Simon, where a typical Sutcliff partnership of two friends is put under intolerable pressure when their families take opposing sides in the conflict. A difficult choice in loyalties has to be made. That Sutcliff should choose to use a Puritan perspective is not surprising given the strong tradition of Quakerism in her family history.

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