Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Girl Green as Elderflower is a novel about healing, the search for identity, rebirth, resurrection: Clare Crispin’s, specifically, but also that of other characters: Jim Maunoir, Mark Clare, and Matthew Perry have all suffered loss or confusion of identity and all seek reintegration with and acceptance by themselves and others. In one sense, the “girl green as elderflower,” another lost child seeking love, stands as a symbol for them as well as that which they seek.

Accordingly, primary motifs in the novel include the contrast between winter/white (death/dormancy) and summer/green (youth/renewal); between the past (Clare’s especially, figured forth in his illness, characters such as Matthew Perry, the land of his ancestors, the ancient texts which form the springboard for his fictions) and the present; between youth/innocence and age/experience; between the magical and the mundane; between reality and the individual’s imaginative reconstruction of reality.

That Clare, in his writing and ultimately in his real life, is beginning to reconcile these seeming opposites speaks to the essentially positive note on which the novel ends. That Clare’s road back to health is buoyed by his relationships with others— Perry, Jim, Alicia, the children—speaks to Stow’s belief in the healing powers of community.