Paul Gallico tells a simple tale in this novella about friendship, love and loss. In the opening pages we are introduced to the ‘desolate and utterly lonely’ Great Marsh on the Essex coast. Like an artist, Gallico paints a picture of the scenery, making it seem both beautiful and sad; ‘Greys and blues and soft greens are the colours, for when the skies are dark in the long winters, the many waters of the beaches and marshes reflect the cold and sombre colour. But sometimes, with the sunrise and sunset, sky and land are aflame with red and golden fire’.
It’s not a great surprise to learn that the protagonist of The Snow Goose is a painter living and working quietly in an abandoned lighthouse. Rhayader, who shies away from public life because of his hunched back and clawed hand, lives a solitary life but is not alone – he is surrounded by nature, and the birds are his friends.
One day a girl brings an injured snow goose to Rhayader to heal. At first she is afraid, but as she visits frequently to see the goose, a gradual and gentle friendship forms between the two. When the healed snow goose returns each autumn, so does Frith until one day she is no longer the grubby little girl that had first appeared on his doorstep.
The gentle writing that captures the Great Marsh and Rhayader’s life there could not be more different to the story of Dunkirk that follows. It’s told from the perspectives of soldiers who witness a man in a small boat, sailing across the water, followed by a white goose. This leads to a thoughtful and poignant ending.
My copy of The Snow Goose also has a charming fable as an added bonus. The Small Miracle explores the sweet friendship between Pepino and his donkey Violetta. When Violetta becomes ill, poor orphaned Pepino will stop at nothing to save her. His plan is to take the donkey to the crypt below the church of the Basilica of St Francis and pray for St Francis to heal her. But first, he must persuade the right people to let him, and that is not an easy task!
This lovely book is a perfect present (with Christmas coming up!) for children or adults. I like my copy, but have seen some beautiful editions with coloured illustrations which also look great.