Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Book Review of "Towers In The Mist"

"No, there is no death, thought Philip, only a perpetual readjustment of the garment of life....And how lovely, and how endlessly various, is this garment." ~Elizabeth Goudge

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading Towers In The Mist, by Elizabeth Goudge.  I finished this around the end of March, and wanted to share my thoughts here.  This book is part of a series, The Cathedral Trilogy, and I've previously read the other two books.  Towers In the Mist and The Dean's Watch were my favorites.  
  I absolutely loved this book.  I will say that the descriptive sections could get a little long, but they were so beautifully written.  I don't think I've ever read a book quite like this.  It takes place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in the town of Oxford.  The book follows the everyday lives of a fictitious family, consisting of a widower, his aunt, and his eight children.  The father is a Canon at Christ Church, and the oldest son, Giles, is a student at Christ Church College, Oxford.  The oldest daughter (15 years old) is the housewife -- that's literally her title since the mother is deceased, and she is responsible for the day to day care of the other six children, the youngest who is a four-year old boy, and quite a handful.  In addition to keeping up with the children, she is responsible for the general running of the household.    
In the Author's Note preceding Chapter One, Goudge wrote, "It is impossible to live in an old city and not ask oneself continually, what was it like years ago?  What were the men, women, and children like who lived in my home centuries ago, and what were their thoughts and their actions as they lived out their lives day by day in the place where I live mine? "  Hence, the author created the imaginary Leigh family and set them down in the house which was at that time occupied by a Canon Westphaling.  In addition to the imaginary family, Goudge has woven into her story the real, historical characters of Walter Raleigh and the poet, Philip Sydney, both students at Oxford University.  There are Thomas Bodley, after whom the Bodleian Library in Oxford is named, Edmund Campion, and Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester.  Last but not least, there was Queen Elizabeth I, and the last three chapters revolved around her visit to Oxford in 1566, during which she stayed at Christ Church College.   
Ralph Agas map of Oxford, 1578 
"So study," he said to his pupils, "as if you were to live forever; so live as if you were to die tomorrow." ~Elizabeth Goudge, "Towers In the Mist"  

The best way I can describe Towers In the Mist is that it reads like a year in the life of Oxford during Elizabethan times, as it parallels the lives of the Leigh family.  I learned some interesting things about this time period, while I enjoyed a good dose of Elizabeth Goudge's beautiful prose.  Another highlight of the book for me was that the author began each chapter with actual poetry written during this same time period by Philip Sydney and Walter Raleigh.  Something else I learned here -- I didn't know that (Sir) Walter Raleigh ever wrote poetry.  
Walter Raleigh 1588
"They had more star-shine in their souls than most other men.  It shone out of them like the light of another country... In Raleigh, it was an arresting combination of recklessness and intellectual power.  He had the scholar's mind and the adventurer's temperament and the two together were as startling as a thunderstorm." ~Elizabeth Goudge, "Towers In The Mist"   

Towers In the Mist offered all my favorite things in a book; there was wry humor (some parts made me laugh out loud), beautiful descriptions of the countryside, poetry, history, faith, and even a little bit of mystery here and there.  The book gets off to a slow start, but I was soon immersed in the story of Oxford during Elizabeth's golden age of progress and learning.  
"For she meant so much to them; she was more than a woman, more even than a Queen; she stood to them for all the happiness and inspiration of this new age, for all its release and promise and newborn beauty." ~Elizabeth Goudge, "Towers In The Mist"

 Have you read Towers In the Mist?  If so, did you enjoy it?  I'd love to hear from you!  😊  Thanks for your visit today and I hope you're enjoying the wonderful spring weather.                   


  1. I have not read "Towers in the Mist" but I have enjoyed other Elizabeth Goudge books. I think I'd like this one, too.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful review! I think I need to find one to give my daughter. It would be perfect for her. : - )



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