The setting for Elizabeth Goudge’s 1830’s romance Green Dolphin Street is the fishing 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.
Goudge’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?