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A City of Bells (Torminster Saga #1)

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  494 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
Who was Gabriel Ferranti? Why had he disappeared?

Jocelyn Irvin has just returned from the Boer War with an incurably lamed leg. He heads for the cathedral town or Torminster, where he recovers his love of life in the invigorating company of his cousin, Hugh Anthony, his grandfather, the Canon and Henrietta.

When Jocelyn moved into the little house where Ferranti once had li
Published 1949 by Gerald Duckworth and Co Ltd (first published 1936)
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Gentle, charming parable on healing and forgiveness wrapped up in a cozy village package.

Jocelyn Irvin was wounded and discharged after service in the Boer War. He now walks with a limp, worn out in body and soul, and far too depressed to tolerate the bracing family suggestions of trying for a desk job in Whitehall or a position as someone’s secretary in the House of Commons. “He was being difficult and knew it…in pity for his family he decided to go and stay with his grandfather, Canon Fordyce
Karlyne Landrum
Aug 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I don't know how Goudge writes introspection without navel-gazing, but she does it better than anyone I've ever read. Perhaps it's because she does it in company? Here's a bit of dialogue about eternity that manages to be between two people and yet personal and general,too.

"Why didn't you kill yourself after all?"
"Your Grandfather. We'd always argued together and though I was far too apathetic to be convinced by any of his arguments I remember them because of my affection for him. One of them w
Richard Derus
Oct 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5 of five

This delicious book was published in 1936. It shows its age in the various creaky plot mechanisms that, in today's publishing world, would get this tome bounced out the doors of any major publishing house.

And what a mistake that would be. Goudge writes in a gentle, soothing voice about a time that, even in 1936, seemed distant and innocent. She writes about characters who, despite their predictable entanglements and pat problem resolutions, make the reader feel like he has add
Lark of The Bookwyrm's Hoard
When Jocelyn Irvin goes to stay in the sleepy cathedral town of Torminster with his grandparents, Canon and Mrs. Fordyce, and his young cousins Hugh Anthony and Henrietta, he is only seeking peace and quiet. But what he finds are love, mystery and a new direction.

As Jocelyn opens a bookshop in Torminster, he is haunted (figuratively speaking) by the house’s previous tenant, a writer named Gabriel Ferranti, with whom Henrietta and Grandfather had struck up an odd friendship until he abruptly disa
Rosemary Morris
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Goudge was born in Wells and also lived in Ely and Oxford. It is not surprising that her imaginary cathedral city, Torminster, with its houses, gardens, cathedral and church bells, and the surrounding countryside, is so realistic. The lyrical descriptions should be savoured like fine food.
Goudge wrote: “Re-reading A City of Bells” I was not remembering my Edwardian childhood; I was back in it. Torminster is not an entirely accurate picture of Wells in Somerset, where I was born and spent the fir
Aug 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book in the Torminster series.

I love everything she has written. I love the way she merges the plots of so many characters. There is always a redemptive ending that comes about through the efforts of love of a godly person, usually more than one.

I relate to the description of Jocelyn Irvin, who opened the book shop: "His bent of mind was a scholarly one and his outlook on life that of an artist. Regulations had irked him, and red tape, and that life of routine that so often sti
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Such a sweet and gentle book. it is a beautiful thing when a sensitive and creative child is brought up in a steady, encouraging serene atmosphere. And it's also wonderful to read about a melancholy gentle man find his place in life after the chaos of war. I found myself relating so much to Capt. Jocelyn and Henrietta that it brought tears to my eyes at times. Goudge has hopeful insights into people and her belief in the goodness of humanity and God makes this a refreshing read.
Helena R-D
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got a new issue copy of this book that has a very tasteful cover so I didn't realise that there was a love story threading through the story of a man who is lost and finds a niche for himself. I loved Jocelyn's wounded self and how he comes alive in Torminster.

The writer's mystery is sort of peripheral for me. He sounds like the early century version of an emo kid.

It's a sweet little book that I needed as antidote, not realising that I had previously read another book of this author- "Green
Mary Ronan Drew
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Such appealing characters appear in Elizabeth Goudge's novel, City of Bells. The city of the title is Torminster in which a young man, Jocyln Irwin, whose army career is ended during the Boer War by a leg injury, decides to open a bookstore. His parents and his grandmother are aghast that he would consider going into trade. But his grandfather, Canon Fordyce, thinks it's a wonderful idea and lends him money to get him started.

"A bookseller," said Grandfather, "is the link between mind and mind,
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed parts of this, but it was just too pious for me. A young man named Jocelyn comes to the city of Torminster to stay with his grandparents after his army career ends due to an injury received in the Boer war. He is seeking a quiet place to recover, and the beautiful cathedral town of Torminster is just the place. Jocelyn immediately feels a connection to a house with a green door. This house turns out to have been the home of Gabriel Ferrante, a writer, who was depressed and in debt, and ...more
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I always enjoy Elizabeth Goudge books, but this one was special for some reason. Apparently it is the first in a trilogy - I have #3, but had to order #2, so I'm waiting for it to arrive before I continue. I hope they will continue the stories of at least some of the characters in this one. Jocelyn, a young man, wounded in the war, goes to visit his grandfather who is a canon at the Torminster cathedral. His grandparents are caring for another grandson (great-grand?) and have adopted a young gir ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is not my favorite Gouge book, but it had the same effect as her others on me. I leave the hustle and bustle of modern day and return to a time of a slower pace and space for reflection. "No man, Jocelyn argued, is quite the same person to each of his friends, one will out one quality, one another". Books are my friends. I like many different kinds, but Elizabeth Goudge will always be a favorite author to me when I take the time to pause and savor what she has to say.
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Who does not love an Elizabeth Goudge and A City of Bells has all the elements of her writing we love to enjoy. There is a quality to her characters and storytelling that is dreamlike and other worldly. (My edition is an old Hodder paperback)
Elizabeth Wooten
I really enjoyed this book! I can't wait to read another book by Goudge
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not Goudge's best but still a nice way to spend a cozy winter afternoon.
Lark of The Bookwyrm's Hoard
When Jocelyn Irvin goes to stay in the sleepy cathedral town of Torminster with his grandparents, Canon and Mrs. Fordyce, and his young cousins Hugh Anthony and Henrietta, he is only seeking peace and quiet. But what he finds are love, mystery and a new direction.

As Jocelyn opens a bookshop in Torminster, he is haunted (figuratively speaking) by the house’s previous tenant, a writer named Gabriel Ferranti, with whom Henrietta and Grandfather had struck up an odd friendship until he abruptly disa
Kathy Weitz
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Miss Goudge continues to delight me. This book did not captivate me as many of her books do (rendering me unable to resist "one more chapter" and go to bed on time!), but it was a very worthy read! A sweet if somewhat predictable story, but one that reflects the author's weighty thoughts on life and art - in particular,

the value of books:
"In my experience when people begin to read, they go on. They begin because they think they out to and they go on because they must. Yes. They find it widens l
Lisa Rector
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've wanted to move to this captivating village, and work in its entrancing bookshop, ever since high school. The next best thing is re-reading this beloved book on a regular basis. The Blue Hills, is a wonderful companion to it.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I ran across this paperback in a stack of old books backstage at a "talent show" about forty years ago. I picked it up, and as no one seemed to know or care what the books were doing there, took it home. And was swept into its world. There is a romance, yes, but it gets very light play; the book is a love story to a city, a way of life, a time.

Goudge's prose at its best is comfortable and comforting; she describes feelings and sensations so vividly that you are there, seeing, feeling, even smell
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
It has been an age since I last read this. For me, the value of it lies mostly in the insight into the characters of Gouge's Henrietta's House, one of my all-time favourite children's books. The story is entertaining enough, in a mild sort of way, and the overwhelming presence of Christianity is, for me, rather fascinating in a historical, or even anthropological way. It rather reminds me of one of those improving Victorian novels, although story and characters are rather better drawn. Not every ...more
Suzanne Marshall
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've read the last word of the book, but I'm not closing the cover. Now I want to reread and copy some of those passages that I admire.
Elizabeth Goudge describes characters without necessarily giving them eye color. She describes the characters' characters in a way that makes you smile with humor, warmth and recognition. Her descriptive skills shine in her painting scene's with her words, especially the natural elements of a scene, like shreds of clouds, or golden candlelight, or a garden rioto
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction

Ok, well, I wrote a nice long review and then, as I've done before on Goodreads (!!!) I tried to tab or something and the stupid window went back to the previous window, thus deleting the review. I had all sorts of quotes, it was a great review:

Read it if you are particularly fond of: Anglican literature (Trollope, Howatch); florid writing with apple-trees and golden sunshine and hollyhocks on every page; literary references (Shakespeare, Shelley, Byron, Melville, Wordsworth, the Bible, etc. etc
I usually love Elizabeth Goudge books but I found this one tough going. The scenes with Grandfather, Henrietta, and especially Hugh Anthony were enchanting, but Jocelyn was a little bland for a main character, and Felicity, while appealing, was never fully drawn.
I would have liked more about the play within the novel (The Minstrel) since it apparently told us so much about Ferranti, the author, whom we never really get to know. And so disappointing not to see what his reaction is to the stunnin
Aug 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: light-reading
Elizabeth Goudge is probably my favorite author next to Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen. Her Damerosehay trilogy and The Deans's Watch are masterpieces of meaningful fiction. But this book felt a little "off."

Jocelyn Irvin comes home from the Boer War with a bum leg and in order to enjoy peace and quiet goes to visit his grandfather in the city of Torminster. He ends up staying there and opening up a bookshop. As he fights his way to wholeness, his life becomes intertwined with that of a lonel
Feb 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is a Utopian novel, too sugary sweet, even cloying, for my taste. The novel is supposed to be set at the turn of the century and is enthused with the piety which presumably prevailed in small cities at that time. It is a well-meaning tale but it veers too closely to the Rosamonda Pilcher style as far as I am concerned. Still, as a novel consciously place just before the insanity of the First World War, it is also a proclamation of what Europe lost in venturing into a war of self destruction ...more
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, favorites
“And an old house is a sort of history book . . . All that people thought and did in it must be written in it somewhere . . . Only the ink’s Invisible.”
—Elizabeth Goudge, A City of Bells

I don’t think I can adequately describe how much I loved this book! A quaint village with ringing bells, a beautiful but abandoned old house with a mystery, a bookshop, and a love story. You can't help but fall in love with little Henrietta and the way she sees the world. There's so much to love about this book t
Jun 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
I think I've come to like these better the more modern books I've read. Not everyone's going to like them; they were a trifle archaic in tone and setting even when they were written, if I understand other non-Goodreads comments correctly. I expect Goudge was harking back to her own childhood, in Edwardian England, pre-either World War.

Read them if you like restful books, with no particular conflict.
This book was written in 1936 and the style of writing was much different than it is now. I bought a used copy and it's a small paper back with microscopic size type. I got a good 50% of it read and it was going along fine and then I just got lost, or I lost interest or something happened. I skimmed the last half. I wasn't surprised by the ending, I probably would have liked the ending better if I read it more carefully, but I'm not bothered that I didn't.
Diane C.
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Everything in this book is just right. The richly drawn characters, the weaving of the plot, the lovely town of Torminster, and especially the wry and affectionate observations of English country life, social class, men and women, and family.

There were observations in this book I wrote down. Literate, insightful, humourous and absorbing, I loved this book!
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Elizabeth Goudge was an English author of romance novels, short stories and children's books.

Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge was born on 24 April 1900 in the cathedral city of Wells, she moved with her family to Ely when her father, a clergyman, was transferred there. When her father, Henry Leighton Goudge, was made Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, the family left Ely and went to Christ Churc
More about Elizabeth Goudge...

Other Books in the Series

Torminster Saga (3 books)
  • The Sister of the Angels (Torminster, #2)
  • The Blue Hills (Torminster, #3)

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“A bookseller," said Grandfather, "is the link between mind and mind, the feeder of the hungry, very often the binder up of wounds. There he sits, your bookseller, surrounded by a thousand minds all done up neatly in cardboard cases; beautiful minds, courageous minds, strong minds, wise minds, all sorts and conditions. There come into him other minds, hungry for beauty, for knowledge, for truth, for love, and to the best of his ability he satisfies them all....Yes....It's a great vocation....Moreover his life is one of wide horizons. He deals in the stuff of eternity and there's no death in a bookseller's shop. Plato and Jane Austen and Keats sit side by side behind his back, Shakespeare is on his right hand and Shelley on his left.” 8 likes
“Given belief in God, a good digestion and a mind in working order life's still a thing to be grateful for.” 5 likes
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