Towers in the Mist, by Elizabeth Goudge
This was our readalong title for Elizabeth Goudge Day, and I'd been saving it for a whole year. It is one of the "Cathedral City" trilogy and set in Elizabethan Oxford, the others being The Dean's Watch (Victorian Ely) and City of Bells (Edwardian Wells). And boy, does she have a good time with the Elizabethan setting!
This is a family story, so we get to know all of the Leighs: the Canon of Christ Church, his many children, and the elderly and imperious Great-Aunt Susan. But we start first with a young scholar, Faithful, who has walked to Oxford in the hope of getting an education despite his penury and is sort of adopted by Canon Leigh. Mostly we follow Joyeuce, the eldest daughter, who has been burdened with the housekeeping since her mother died four years ago. She finds it extremely difficult, and then a wealthy but perhaps unsuitable scholar, Nicolas, wants her to sneak out to see him.
The house is almost as much a character as the rest of the family, and apparently it was Goudge's actual home while her father worked at Oxford. She seems to have populated her lonely house with plenty of company! She also entertains herself by describing daily life and sprinkling famous characters throughout; Philip Sidney and Walter Raleigh are both there as teenagers, and the whole thing works up to a grand visit by the Queen. And it's all done in a sense of fun; there are jokes and humorous asides all throughout the story that lighten the serious and even tragic events. I think this might be the story where Goudge allows herself to have the most fun in an adult novel.
I really enjoyed this one and look forward to reading it again. Of course, all the descriptions of embroidery and tapestry work might have helped with my impression. But it really was a delightful read all 'round.