Sister of the Angels

Wells Cathedral.
Sister of the Angels, by Elizabeth Goudge

I got this on ILL and wasn't at all sure what it would be.  It goes with City of Bells, which I read recently, but that's all I knew.  It turns out to be...sort of a children's book?  Maybe?  It's a sequel, but short and from the perspective of an 11-year-old girl.  I think you don't have to have read City of Bells to understand it--though it would certainly help a lot--so I guess it's a children's story.  Although the library that sent it to me seems to keep it in the adult section (luckily for me, since most libraries weed the children's room more heavily and would consider this to be too outdated and old to keep there).  It's also a Christmas story, so I'm a month late!

Henrietta lives with the elderly Dean of Torminster as an adopted grandchild.  Hugh Anthony lives there too in the same capacity.  Henrietta's father is an artist and spends most of his time doing other things, but he comes to visit at special times, such as Christmas.  Henrietta knows every inch of Torminster Cathedral, but she particularly loves a chapel in the crypt called the Nicolas de Malden chapel, which is decorated with lovely frescoes...except for one blank wall, which was left unfinished.  Henrietta knows just what should be on that wall, and when a mysterious artist arrives in town, they become friends and, well, there's a Christmas miracle.

It's a lovely story that is especially about a) caring for prisoners, b) integrity, and c) allowing people to help you. Even more so, it's about personal redemption.  I don't know that some of the historical details hang together too well, but it's a children's story and mostly fairy-tale anyway, so we'll let that go.  If you like Elizabeth Goudge, you'll enjoy this short novel.  If you've never read her, you should probably try something else first.

Torminster is a fictional version of Wells Cathedral, so this story goes to Somerset.  I think we can fairly call some of Goudge's children's titles classics, but I'm not sure that this is one of those titles.  It's quite good; but because it depends on another book for context, it's more like a novella set in a particular world (that I love) than it is like a classic in its own right.  So while I'm not going to count it as a "classic" for the Back to the Classics challenge, I am going to count it for the Reading England challenge.  I hope that makes sense.


  1. Lovely photo, that transept is amazing. I have this and Henrietta's House waiting for me...I'm looking forward to some time in Torminster.


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