Tuesday, September 20, 2011

zachary moon

Zachary is very possibly my favorite literary hero ever. Yup. You should definitely read this post :)

To start, since I'll probably be using the word quite a bit in this series, let's define "hero":
hero |ˈhi(ə)rō|
the chief male character in a bookplay, or movie, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathize.
Now that that's settled, we'll move on.

Zachary is one of two main characters in Elizabeth Goudge's book Gentian Hill. Elizabeth Goudge is one of those authors you either love, or you don't. I happen to love her. So does Mama. Leia does not. *grin* Anyway, Zachary is a "Goudge creation" - just so you're aware.

The thing that I love about Zachary is that he's young. This isn't a story about adults, even about "young adults", it's about characters who are practically children. Zachary is fifteen when the book opens. The other main character, Stella, is only eleven or twelve. They're young, but they carry the story with a humanness that is very compelling.

To start, Zachary's name isn't actually Zachary. It's Mr. Midshipman Anthony Louis Mary O'Connell. At the start of the book, he's working on his uncle's ship in the navy, and being very roughly treated. After only eight weeks, he's ready to be done. When the ship lands in Torbay, he escapes the first chance he gets.

**I don't want to spoil the story for you, but I will have to tell you some so you understand the progression.**

So Anthony escapes, and starts a new life as "Zachary" in the little costal town. He starts exploring the countryside, trying to find work. Father Sprigg, Stella's foster-father, won't take him, thinking he's escaped from a chain gang or something along those lines.

That night, while Stella is feeding the cats, she happens upon Zachary, hungry and looking for a place to stay the night.

"My name is Stella Sprigg, " said Stella. "What is your name?" To her, as to all children, names were tremendously important. Your Christian name, joining you to God, your surname linking you to your father. If you had both names you had your place in the world, walking safely along with a hand held upon either side. If you had neither you were in a bad way, you just fell down and did not belong anywhere, and if you only had one you only half belonged.
"Zachary," said the boy.
"Only Zachary?"
"Only Zachary."
"Just a Christian name?"
"That's all."
Stella looked at him with concern. Only God had hold of him. He was lopsided. She had noticed it in his gait when she first saw him walking. Then she remembered that but for Father and Mother Sprigg she would have been lopsided too, for her nameless mother had died. This memory deepened her feeling of oneness with Zachary, and she put out a small hand and laid it on his knee.
"Do you know where you come from?" she asked wonderingly.
"From the moon," replied Zachary promptly. "Haven't you seen me up there?" .....
"Zachary Moon," she said with pleasure, and felt she had got him a bit better supported upon the other side.
(note: isn't the writing scrumptious?! Love it.)

Stella helps Zachary figure out what he's going to do next, and he's given a chance to work and starts his life over. He's "adopted" by Dr. Crane, a noble, strong man with  no family. It is the strength of character of Dr. Crane that helps Zachary get on his feet, the first true father-figure in the young boy's life.

But then, guilt sets in. Zachary is haunted by the fact that he deserted his post in the Royal Navy (this story takes place in Great Britain, by the way.) The doctor has grown to love him like a son, and hates to see him go. But he's been preparing Zachary, waiting for him to be strong enough of character to make this choice himself.

And so the story continues.

We follow Zachary through the war with "Bony" (that'd be France. Think Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson, etc. and you'll know the time period), watching how much he's changed from the rather grumpy, spoiled midshipman in Chapter One, to a dependable seaman and patriot. But his biggest trial is yet to come. On a leave of absence in London, his "friend" Mike gets into a fight, and to keep Mike from killing the other boy, Zachary enters and knocks Mike cold. Dead? Maybe. Zachary finds himself in jail, not knowing if Mike alive, unable to contact Dr. Crane, resigned to miserable life or miserable death regardless.

I won't tell you happens then, but I just wanted to give you a little taste of this fascinating book. There's a lot more to the story (think....Stella? *grin*) but I'll let you explore Gentian Hill yourself :)

Characters who suffer grab my attention. Characters who have been affected in some way by evil in the world and have to work to overcome it. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don't. Zachary is young and human. He goes from a desperate, tired, afraid young boy with no role-models to a strong, moral, determined, noble young man with a life purpose and a father to help him through. His biggest enemy is fear, and he [Zachary] comes out victorious. That's strength.

There's a little quote that is used throughout the whole book, weaving all the characters together, carried in lockets and pockets and books, and I thought I'd end with it. It's a little strange, but any post about Gentian Hill should include it :) (the quote itself is by Shelley, I believe.... *go figure*)
"Love is the divinity who creates peace among men and calm upon the sea, the windless silence of storms, repose and sleep in sadness. Love sings to all things who live and are, soothing the troubled minds of gods and men."
Ah, Gentian Hill. Has anyone read it? I believe it's out of print...I could be wrong. Anyway, if you have, I'd *love* to hear your thoughts! And if you haven't, any questions?


  1. Ohhhhh! This sounds like a fabulous book! I've been trying to focus on considering the style of the writing rather than content only, and this book seems to have both. I love the part where Stella meets Zachary. Thanks for posting it. :)

  2. I am a fan of Elizabeth Gouge, but I have only read one of her books-- Linnets and Valerians. Zachery Moon sounds interesting, i will keep an eye out for it and read it someday.

    Have a good day! :)