Since I like to read books that have been made into movies, my dad is on the lookout when garage-saleing and picks up ones I haven’t heard of, usually. Green Dolphin Street, by Elizabeth Goudge, was made into a movie starring Donna Reed and Van Heflin, and while I haven’t seen it the casting is perfect and I would love to watch it except it might not be as good as the book. And then I would be disappointed.
Green Dolphin Street is the home street of two sisters on an island outside of France, and their adventures begin with a sailing ship pulling into port, the vessel named the Green Dolphin.
The book covers sixty years or so, with both their home on Green Dolphin Street and the sailing ship haunting them throughout their lives. The what-wases, and could-have-beens, and the final resolution to accept the present.
Both sisters fall in love with the same young man, who joins the Navy and sails off to China (this is the 1830s) but through inadvertent clumsiness misses the boat when it departs and thereby loses his ability to return to France as he would be deemed a deserter. Instead he stows away on (coincidentally) the Green Dolphin and sails to New Zealand to begin a new life as a lumberman. Once he has his business established, he writes to the father of the two girls asking for the hand of one in marriage—except he writes down the name of the wrong girl. When she sails to be with him and he sees her coming down the plank he of course realizes his mistake and has a split second to make his choice—and he chooses to marry her anyway, rather than have her risk humiliation upon her return home.
This is one of the best love stories I have ever read, period. It’s set mostly in 1800’s New Zealand at the time when the Maoris were still warlike and fighting the settlers for control of the land. Here is an excerpt from page 330, after the family has been taken hostage by the Maoris and held captive in a fenced village (the Maoris built tall fences to protect their villages from other Maoris), and the only way to escape is they have been given red paint made from rancid shark oil, which they must cover their naked bodies with, and wrap a few rags around the important bits, and then pretend to be the Maori’s version of “the untouchables” who are shunned but take care of the dead. So thusly covered in rags and rancid paint, they run from the village:
“Run!” commanded William, leaping to his feet and leading the way, with Veronique in his arms.
They were not far from the opening in the first fence and it was a short run, but even so, Marianne was to repeat it in her nightmares for the rest of her life. The shrieks and curses seemed like a suffocating evil smoke through which one had to fight one’s way out of this terrible chimney. Stones whizzed in the air, and once a spearpoint pricked her body. Bent low to the ground to avoid the stones, she fixed her eyes upon William’s back and ran. She could hear Nat stumbling and panting behind her. She saw William leap the first ditch with Veronique. There were three ditches. Could she possibly jump them? Could Nat, old as he was, with his wounded leg not yet healed? Yet before she realized it, her desperation had carried her across the first ditch with ease, and then the second. At the third leap she missed hr footing and would have fallen, but William swung round and grabbed her wrist and pulled her to safety. Then they were through the opening in the last fence, the peke-rangi, and running down the hill toward the deserted village. Nat had managed the ditches. He was running beside her, grinning at her, looking like a great, red, hairy ape, and the most hideous spectacle she had ever seen. Stones were still whizzing through the air around them, and one grazed her shoulder and cut it, but the dreadful sound of the curses was dying away….Only one Maori was still following them. She could hear his padding bare feet and his insults shouted in the Maori language, that changed quite suddenly to injunctions in English. “Straight on. Through the village and into the forest. Don’t stop till I say.”
I love this book so much that I don’t want to just put it away, and so I am giving it away. Except whoever wins has to actually READ it, and not just enter the give-away because of the thrill of winning something. Please leave a comment and tell me how much you like to read love stories and tell me your favorite book and why. I’ll pick a name June 14.