The Middle Window, by Elizabeth Goudge, for Timeslip Tuesday

This week's Timeslip Tuesday post was supposed to be about Blackout, by Connie Willis. But that didn't happen...so I am falling back on one of the increasingly small handful of timeslip books that I have read and that I have on hand--The Middle Window, by Elizabeth Goudge (1939).

Elizabeth Goudge is one of my most favorite authors. I still delight in the beauty of Linnets and Valerians and City of Bells, still sob like a child every time I re-read The Dean's Watch. This particular book doesn't come near those, but it is not entirely without merit.

Judy Cameron has come to Scotland to spend a holiday with her parents and her stodgy fiance, and the moment she crosses the boarder she feels ever so much more herself, caught up in an intense spiritual bond with the Land of her Ancestors. And then, when she crosses the threshold of their holiday home, she becomes even more attuned to the past of this place. When she enters the main room, where the middle window has been covered over, she is overcome with roiling emotions not her own, and when she meets Ian Macdonald, the handsome owner of the house, she feels like she has known him forever....

Sure enough, she's met him before--back in the past. Gradually Judy in the present becomes caught in the story the Judith of the past--a Judith who was caught up in the Jacobite rebellion. When Judy finally becomes entirely Judith, Goudge gives us a self-contained story of what happened to Judith and Ian back then, not referencing the present at all--it's simply what happened. And what happened was war, and despair, and death, and love that transcended time and space...to be reborn in the present.

The book is rather overblown and overwrought at times. But still, there are quite a number of moments of frisson where the book is gripped tightly by the reader. And the part in the 18th century is not a bad historical romance, and the part in the present is not a bad paranormalish romance...Re-reading the book earlier this evening, I was expecting not to enjoy it much, but I was surprised to find myself gripped by the story. But it's one I'd give to historical romance readers, rather than true time-travel aficionados.

It's not really truly a time travel story, in that it is more about reincarnation than travel through time. However, there are moments when past and present intersect that are very time slipish, so I think it counts.

Here's a short essay that discusses the religious aspects of this book--Goudge was a deeply committed Christian, and her beliefs (even when somewhat strangely entwined with myths and legends) are apparent in (almost) all of her books.


  1. Timeslip Tuesday! What a good idea! I remember 'The Middle Window' - not Goudge's best book, but entertaining, as you say. I grew up on Goudge, and love her children's books and the series about the Eliots.

    Do you know a timeslip book by Margaret Urwin called 'Still She Wished for Company"?

  2. Margaret Irwin, I mean! (Was sure that didn't look quite right.)

  3. I went and looked it up, and it sounds like a lovely book! Here's the review I read: http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/still-she-wished-for-company-by-margaret-irwin/
    I've added it to my list!

  4. This is one of the Goudge books I've not read. For the most part, I've stuck to rereading the stories that have children as main characters. My library system has it as a book on tape and in large print as well as regular print, so I just ordered a copy.

  5. I have that same edition of The Middle Window - I think it's the only one of her books I found mildly disappointing, but even so, I quite enjoyed it.

  6. Yeah, this is one of my three unfavorite Goudges (The White Witch and Child from the Sea being the others). Goudge does children and families so well that any of her books that don't have that focus seem weak...

    So I am a bit worried about you not liking it, Farida!

  7. I agree, this was one of the weaker ones I've read. But I love Goudge anyhow! There are now only a few left which I haven't read...

  8. Hi, I am from Germany and currently translating this book to German. What no one tried obviously before. No I am looking for some help with some images I do not know whether they are common images or some special Elizabeth Goudge images. For example in the beginning she is talking about peas and that Judy feels like a pea. Is this a general metapher in English?
    Sorry, forget to introduce myself: I am Veronika and the translation is my private joy.

  9. Hi Roni! I'm impressed with your project!

    to "feel like a pea in pod" means to feel as though you are part of a group in which there is no variation-- every pea is just like all the other peas in the pod. It is a very common expression. Maybe in German you can be one fish in a school of fish? Or one of some other group of things that are all alike. Do let me know if there are other metaphors you have trouble with--I would be happy to help.


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