Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (1948)

Pilgrim’s Inn (also published as The Herb of Grace) is the second book in the Eliot Family Trilogy. Its best to read it after The Bird in the Tree as most of the characters are introduced in the first book and the central theme continues into the second book. I read both books one after the other.


The Bird in the Tree introduces the Eliot family and the history of Lucilla, the matriarch of the family, who purchases the house at Damerosehay, which she intends to establish as an inheritance and a place of refuge and beauty for her grandchildren.
Lucilla had very noble intentions but when her beloved and favourite grandson, David, entered into a relationship that was the antithesis of all she had planned and hoped for, she took some matters into her own hands.
The Bird in the Tree has the rumblings of WWII in the background and ends with on a shaky note regarding this relationship. Pilgrim’s Inn picks up the pieces at the end of the war and continues to work through the ramifications of the various individual decisions.

What I liked about this book:

• The setting (the coastal area of eastern England) and the descriptions of the countryside
• The theme – a moral dilemma; the choice between feelings/emotions and duty
•       Goudge doesn’t offer quick fixes. Her characters feel pain and hopelessness but there is always a redemptive pathway
• The sensitivity shown by the author to the effects of marital breakdown on children
• Goudge’s lovely reflective writing:

‘Hers was the unconscious tyranny of inexorable great expectations.’

‘She knew how worrying, even how agonising sometimes, the questions of grownups can be to children whose capacity for experience so far outstrips their capacity for talking about it. And in afterlife it it’s the other way round…adult and educated folks seemed to experience so little of any consequence and yet to say such a vast and wearisome amount about it.’

Some Characters:

Lucilla, a grandmother who was quite manipulative at times. Yes, she loved her family, but her actions were often quite selfish towards some of them, especially her unmarried daughter, Margaret. I cringed a few times to read how she advanced her own (noble as they were) plans. She was a praying woman but perhaps felt the Lord needed some help from her!

Hilary, the eldest of Lucilla’s five children – a bachelor and a parish priest – on the other hand, was not in any way manipulative. Placid, patient, wise, utterly unselfconscious, utterly happy, much loved and popular within his parish. He did know when to speak out and did so when the time came.

Annie-Laurie, a gifted young lady with a dark past and a secret she dare not disclose.

Nadine, a beautiful woman who made a decision to put duty before passion but is now faced with working this out in daily life.

‘In even the smallest of selfless decisions there is a liberation from self…’

David, a young, sensitive man devastated by loss and only capable of ‘tattered loving.’

‘Till whatsoever star that guides my moving
Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
And puts apparel on my tattered loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect:
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
Till then not lift my head where thou mayest prove me.’
– William Shakespeare

Pilgrim’s Inn is a slow, worthwhile read; descriptive and thoughtful with a satisfying outcome. I haven’t yet read the last book in the trilogy but this one didn’t leave me with a sense of unfinished business so unless the book falls into my hands I probably won’t read it.
Or should I? Have you read the last book in this trilogy? I’d be interested to know whether it really adds anything more to the story.

Linking to 2020 Back to the Classics: Classic with a Place in the Title

12 thoughts on “Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (1948)

  1. This sounds good. I have come to appreciate slower paced character studies. It sounds as if at least some of the characters are very complex. I would go on and read the last book.


  2. The Herb of Grace was the first Elizabeth Goudge book I ever read! 🙂 And I enjoyed it very much. I did read the third book (although I still haven't read the first one!) in this trilogy, and I liked it very much as well. It does continue the story, or rather the growth of these characters, and I do recommend it, although I can't remember all the details right now as it was many years ago I read it. If your library has it, give it a whirl. 🙂


  3. Thanks for the link Mama Squirrel. Enjoyed reading your review. I'm having difficulties commenting on Blogger unless it is using the pop-up comment box so I didn't leave a comment.


  4. I think you should definitely read the third book! This sounds really good. My library has all of Goudge's books (I think). If they ever re-open, I would like to check this trilogy out.


  5. That's the advice everyone's been giving me, Ruthiella. Our libraries are open again but the only Goudge book any of them have is 'A Little White Horse' so I may have to buy it.


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