Smoky-House by Elizabeth Goudge was first published in 1940 but my copy is a 2020 reprint by Girls Gone By Publishers. This book involves smuggling along the Devon coast in the early 19th century and it has elements of a fairy tale/fantasy.
The tale begins in the village of Faraway where the five Treguddick children live with their father in Smoky-House, an old tavern. Father is the landlord. Faraway is apparently the happiest of places, it’s in England’s West Country which is a part of the world so beautiful that the people who live in it are always happy. The Treguddick’s mother is dead, but as they feel so close to heaven even that isn’t so sad as she feels close to them. However, aged 17, Jessamine the eldest girl has taken over the motherly duties.
When a stranger arrives at the tavern he brings with him an oppressive atmosphere and has a strange twist to his lips. The dogs bark at him, but the stranger is a wonderful fiddler and everyone loves his music. But still those dogs aren’t happy!
There’s smuggling involved which is a popular theme I think, but the most enjoyable part of this book is the animal characters who speak to each other and are much more sensible than the humans.
I was slightly perturbed by the ending which I think is in some ways quite a dangerous idea for children to read because the author seemed to be implying that if you are kind to a nasty person then they will give up their evil ways – which is of course rarely if ever true. In that respect this tale is the opposite of a traditional fairy tale as most of them were designed to be a warning to children.
These Girls Gone By Publishers reprint paperbacks are really lovely editions with lots of additional information about the book’s publishing history as well as Elizabeth Goudge’s life.