The other day I requested a copy of The Snow Goose: A Story by Paul Gallico after a nudge by another blogger. The first Gallico I ever read was Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. For some reason I picked up a very old copy at the used bookstore I haunted in high school and I was in love. Since then I read all the Mrs. “Arris books and The Poseidon Adventure but I had never read The Snow Goose until now.
It is a short story set on the coast of Essex during the early days of World War II and like many of Gallico’s work, celebrates how an ordinary person can do something extraordinary simply by being themselves. It seems to me it would make a grand read aloud story. Philip Rhayader is a solitary artist withdrawn from all company besides the birds he tends and paints. One day a little girl brings him an injured snow goose and she continues to visit him when the snow goose returns. And then Dunkirk happens.
An excerpt from The Snow Goose:
Hard by on of the winding arms of the little River Aelder runs the embankment of an old sea wall, smooth and solid, without a break, a bulwark to the land against the encroaching sea. Deep into a salting some three miles from the North Sea it runs, and there turns north. At that corner its face is gouged, broken, and Shattered. It has been breached and at the breech the hungry sea has already entered and taken for its own the land, the wall, and all that stood there.
At low water the blackened and ruptured stones of the ruins of an abandoned lighthouse show above the surface, with here and there, like buoy markers, the top of a sagging fence-post. Once this lighthouse abutted on the sea and was a beacon on the Essex coast. Time shifted land and water, and its usefulness came to an end.
lately it served again as a human habitation. In it there lived a lonely man. His body was warped, but his heart was filled with love for wild and hunted things. he was ugly to look upon, but he created great beauty. It is about him, and a child who came to know him and see beyond the grotesque form that housed him to what lay withing, that this story is told. (pgs. 5-7)