Henrietta’s House by Elizabeth Goudge is another reprint from Girls Gone By Publishers. I enjoyed this one more than her book Smoky-House which I read fairly recently. The book was originally published in 1942 and it’s a sort of fantasy. At the beginning of the book the ten year old Henrietta is excitedly waiting at a railway station for the arrival of a train carrying her adopted brother Hugh Anthony. He’s a bit of a handful, older than Henrietta and has been sent to boarding school in an attempt to make him more civilised. The setting is Torminster, a cathedral city which was apparently based on Wells.
Most of the tale takes place over one afternoon. It’s Hugh Anthony’s birthday and he’s having a birthday picnic with some relatives and adult friends. The setting is the forest and the various guests are making their way there in separate vehicles, mainly horse drawn carriages – a victoria, a landau, a governess cart and one car which has shocked the country folk and would terrify the horses. They split up and everyone gets lost on the way to the forest, some even ending up underground. During the journeys the characters of them all are improved as they realise what the important things in life really are. This book was just a bit too churchy for my liking, I suspect that that will be the same with all Goudge’s books, but it definitely has its charming moments.
For me this one was very much of its time with heavy emphasis on the food being prepared for the picnic. Well if food is strictly rationed as it was in the UK during World War 2 and right into the 1950s, people fantasised about what they couldn’t have, and feasts featured heavily in books of that era, especially children’s books such as C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series.