The Dean’s Watch (1960)

by Elizabeth Goudge

The Dean’s Watch is an apologetically Christian book by a Anglo-Catholic writer who was popular in the mid-20th century and is little known now. Elizabeth Goudge was a clergyman’s daughter who grew up in English cathedral towns that provided background for her novels. The Dean’s Watch is set in a remote cathedral town in the Fens of East Anglia in the mid-19th century.

Cathedral Dean Adam Ayscough is impaired by a misinterpreted shyness that drives people away. Watchmaker Isaac Peabody was turned off to religion by his stern clergyman father and has never set foot in the cathedral. They strike up an unlikely friendship that spills over to other townsfolk. The cast of characters includes the disagreeable sister with whom Isaac lives, their good-natured housekeeper, a talented castaway who courts her and apprentices with Isaac, the dean’s cold younger wife, a charming little girl who takes to the dean, and an old spiritually advanced woman who was one of Adam’s few friends as the story begins. The message of the book is that love awakens and heals.

Goudge’s best-known book may be Green Dolphin Country (1964) because it was adapted into the movie Green Dolphin Street.


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