Mont Saint-Michel and Green Dolphin Street

The setting for Elizabeth Goudge’s 1830’s romance Green Dolphin Street is the 527189fishing town of Saint Pierre in the Channel Islands, off the coast of France, but the Abbey in the story is modeled after the famous Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.  This UNESCO site made the news this week when the causeway connecting the Abbey to the mainland disappeared under a high tide, creating an island cut off by the sea – a phenomenon occurring only every 18 years.

d0f99f7ad5444ac29745fe287f707dcf-d0f99f7ad5444ac29745fe287f707dcf-0-862Goudge’s book. and later the movie with Donna Reed and Lana Turner as the sisters battling for the love of the same man, uses the Abbey as a catalyst for the plot.  Dramatically beautiful scenes of isolation and peaceful seclusion have a daily tide, rather than one every 18 years, surrounding the building – keeping the nuns inside, and trapping unknowing trespassers who venture on the rocks at the wrong time of day.

I recently saw the movie version on my old movie channel (TCM).  The premise is ridiculous – the hero writes a letter asking his true love to join him in a new life in New Zealand but writes the wrong sister’s name (they both begin with M).  All their lives are changed irrevocably, with his true love going off to a life as a nun at the famous Abbey.

My library has an old copy of the book;  inspired by the recent news, I plan to read it –  and to add Mont Saint-Michel to my list of places to visit someday.  Have you been there?




Do you play the cards you’re dealt or reshuffle the deck, hoping for a better deal? 9781442490581_p0_v3_s260x420In Katherine Rundell’s Rooftoppers a little girl refuses to believe her mother has drowned; her faith, courage, and determination are rewarded as she searches for her mother along the rooftops of Paris.

When a cruise ship sinks in the middle of the English Channel, Charles Maxim, passenger and scholar, rescues a red-haired baby afloat in a cello case. He names her Sophie and fights off the London social workers who would send her to an orphanage. On her twelfth birthday, after Charles is threatened with jail if he does not give Sophie to the authorities, Sophie discovers a plaque with a Parisian address inside the cello case. Convinced her mother is still alive, Sophie and Charles flee to Paris and the adventure begins.

With the help of Matteo and a small band of clever homeless children with street smarts, Sophie roams the rooftops of Paris, listening for the sounds of her mother’s cello and challenging authority . The adventure and the ending are improbable, impractical and wonderful.

Although targeted to middle schoolers, Rundell’s tale has those intelligent asides that adult readers will appreciate. As I read, I noted some of her astute phrases that I hope to use at an appropriate moment:

“I’m afraid, I understand books far more readily than I understand people. Books are so easy to get along with.”

“Money can make people inhuman. It is best to stay away from people who care too much about money, my darling. They are people with shoddy, flimsy brains.”

And, my favorite new word:

“A murmuration. When the sea and wind murmur in time with one other; like people laughing in private…”

Entertaining and clever – Rooftoppers can be enjoyed at any age.