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The Middle Window Mass Market Paperback – 1974
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The spell of the past was on them...And they were possessed by love. The mountatins, the old house, the people, and especially the young lad...Judy Cameron felt so unaccountably at home in her Scottish holiday surroundings. THen in a dream, Judy learns the story of an earlire Judith whose destiny bewitches the modern Judy. The pain and glory of a former love set her young hear free, and she is swept into the magical stream of a spendid past...and a radiant future.
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A form of magic comes over Judy and through dreams and strange experiences she becomes as if two people living in two different time periods. Judy finds herself feeling more alive than ever. She feels strangely drawn to Ian Macdonald, current Laird of the house she is staying in who lives to create a utopian world there in the glen.
Eventually the book jumps back in time to tell the story of a Judith who lived 200 years previous. This Judith married the Laird Ranald Macdonald who was then immediately called away to fight for the cause of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The book narrates the tragic and difficult life of Judith as she waits at home for her husband as well as showing the cruel hardships the Jacobite supporters were going through at the same time. The “middle window” comes into play as the house is converged on by British soldiers in hot pursuit of the worn out Ranald and Judith attempts to warn her love of the soldiers appearance before Ranald walks into the trap set for him.
Back in the present, Judy is finding it hard to connect with her tiresome London fiancé and finds it strange that she and Ian already seem to know each other so well and may actually be in love. With themes of reincarnation, time travel, and wistful muses flying all over the place the book comes to a happy ending with the right people being matched up and the mystery of the middle window being solved.
Elizabeth Goudge has a huge fan club, myself included. But the votes are out on this book as some people love it, others hate it, and many of us in the “middle” find it worth reading for the nature descriptions and feel for life during the Jacobite uprising but just don’t go completely in for all the ethereal “nonsense” or the “sentimental Jacobite treacle.” Here are a few snippets of nature quotes from the book:
“….wet bracken and bog myrtle, the roses in the garden and the peaty smell of the hills just touched with a tang of the sea.”
“Then why live in Scotland if you don’t go in for shooting and fishing? I’m dashed if I know what you can go in for, except economy and getting wet.”
“How lovely the glen was, with its crofts and white-washed cottages, like an enchanted country, so hidden away that only its lovers could find it.”
“It was a glorious day of alternate sun and shower, with the colours of the mountains shifting and changing as the clouds swept over them, and always the hint of a rainbow across the heather.”
Travel Notes: a book to read if you are headed to the Highlands or want to get a feel for the Jacobite uprising of 1745.
Young Judy Cameron from London, recently affianced to a stuffed-shirt, meets the impoverished laird of Glen Suilag, Ian Macdonald, and experiences a tragedy from that earlier time.
Is she haunted, or is she a reincarnation of Judith, who married Randald Macdonald, the laird and clan chief, on the day when the heather bursts into flame?
Goudge was fascinated by the idea of reincarnation, despite her own strong Christian faith.
What was read, when it was published in 1935, as whimsical speculation, has become standard time-slip fantasy fare for Young Adult (YA) readers since Phillipa Pearce's "Tom's Midnight Garden".
Few earlier books used such a theme: Margaret Irwin's "Still She Wished For Company", a neglected romance-historical-ghost novel published in 1924, is one example. Perhaps, as with Hope Mirrlees' remarkable supernatural fantasy "Lud-in-the-Mist", published in 1926, the grief for the lost generation of World War I was an explanation for stories in which star-crossed lovers of an earlier era connect with, and find redemption in the happiness of their inheritors.
Interestingly, a very similar Scottish islands story, at the end of World War II, became the Michael Powell and Emerich Pressberger film, "I Know Where I'm Going".
There are, too, hints of Wagner's legend of "The Flying Dutchman" -- redemption through love and sacrifice by another.
In her reflective autobiographical memoir "The Joy of Snow", Goudge describes her own eerie experiences on the remote heathers of the Isle of Skye, during a walking holiday.
John Gough -- Deakin University - email@example.com