Archive for the ‘Rumer Godden’ Category

Cromartie v. The God Shiva Acting Through the Government of India by Rumer Godden ~ 1997. This edition: Macmillan, 2007. First edition. Hardcover. ISBN: 0-333-71548-9. 170 pages.

My rating: 5/10. Workmanlike, but lacking any sort of the old Rumer Godden magic. If it were by any other author I would have set it aside unfinished, but as the celebrated writer’s last published work, I felt the need to see it through to the end. Not recommended, except to those wishing to round out their Godden collection.

*****

Publisher’s Weekly Review, November 1997:

Based on a real incident that occurred a decade ago, this assured novel by 89-year-old Godden (Black Narcissus, etc.) concerns a sensational case brought by the Hindu god Shiva, “acting through the government of India,” against a wealthy Canadian, Sydney Carstairs Cromartie, who buys a small, 11th-century bronze statue of Shiva in Toronto. Cromartie takes the figurine to a highly reputable London art dealer, where a staff member informs the Indian government that the priceless artifact has likely been stolen. The partners in a prestigious set of chambers in London’s Inns of Court overcome their fear of appearing ridiculous and assign the case to young Michael Dean, who was born and raised in India. Dean returns to his homeland to investigate and stays at Patna Hall, a quaint beachfront hotel in South India, seen before in Godden’s Coromandel Sea Change. Although Dean soon falls for a visiting archeologist, love is not allowed to get in the way of the pursuit of justice; the denouement, however, brings one of the lovers a broken heart. Liberally dabbed with local color, the book is fast-paced–so much so that its concise prose sometimes seems hasty, its simple characterizations verging on the glib. Yet Godden’s fans will probably welcome yet another of this veteran novelist’s tales of India.

I am definitely a Godden fan, but I like to think that this designation does not blind me to the fact that her output can be, on occasion, charitably described as uneven. When she’s good, she’s very, very good,but when she’s bad … well, you know the rest of that tagline.

This book, her last adult novel, and indeed her last published work of any sort, was written at the very end of her long career. Though it is more than competently written, it feels sadly stiff and flat. I did not care for a single one of the characters; they moved behind a wall of smoked glass, with occasional glints of sparkle and colour, but nothing more. The ending was dreadfully contrived, like something out of one of Agatha Christie’s lesser efforts. I can’t help but feel the author shipped this one off to the publisher with a sigh of relief before turning to the fireside and tea-tray, much deserved after so many industrious years. Rumer Godden died a year after the publication of Cromartie v. The God Shiva, at the venerable age of ninety.

I will be reading Coromandel Sea Change, in order to compare the two. Godden refers to that work as the “Siamese twin” of Cromartie, sharing the setting and some of the characters, but diverging in plot. I have heard that Coromandel is the better book. I hope that this is true. I readily forgive Godden and allow her the odd miss, but I’m not going to hide my disappointment about this one.

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Take Three Tenses: A Fugue in Time by Rumer Godden ~ 1945. This edition: Macmillan, 1976. Hardcover. ISBN: 333-19366-0. 176 pages.

My rating: 6.5/10 for the overall story, 10/10 for the writing. The first rating really should be higher but I am comparing it to its successor, China Court (1958), which used the same idea expanded to five generations, with a much stronger story thread. This one felt a bit experimental, which the author herself notes. It took a few pages to get into the rhythm and figure out all the characters, but after that it was easy to follow, perhaps because I am already very familiar with this author’s use of concurrent and intertwining times in many of her novels. An unusual and ambitious book. Beautifully written.

*****

This book is prime Rumer Godden; an example of why I keep returning to her works time after time; as I’ve mentioned before, even a “poor” Godden is worth the time it takes to read it; her “top end” books are little masterpieces.

Take Three Tenses: A Fugue in Time is, in my opinion, almost a little masterpiece, or perhaps more aptly, the not-quite-finished work of a master artist, still needing a few final touches, but interesting to examine in the context of the artist’s body of work, to get a glimpse into how their mind works. A very experimental piece of work, and decidedly the precursor of the much longer and stronger China Court, which isprobably my favourite Rumer Godden book to date, though I still need to search down a few of her more obscure titles. Though China Court uses the same technique and many similar characters, Take Three Tenses is an entirely different story, except possibly for the theme of the importance of the house itself as a character with a life of its own.

Originally published in 1945, and with the War itself driving much of the story, this novel was reissued in 1975 with this note by the author:

This novel was the first in which I used a theme that has always intrigued me, Dunne’s Experiment With Time, i.e., that time is not consecutive, divided into past, present and future, but that these are all co-existent if only we could see it: if you are in a boat on a river you can only see the stretch on which your boat is travelling – a picnic party on the bank perhaps: a kingfisher diving. What you traversed before, passing willows, a barge tied up, cows in a field, as far as you are concerned, is gone; what lies around the next corner – a lock working, a man fishing – is hidden but, were you up in an aeroplane, you could see all these at once – the willows, the barge, the cows, the picnic party, the diving kingfisher, the lock, the man fishing.

In a Fugue in Time I have taken the part of being up in the aeroplane, seeing three generations of a family at once, all living in a house in London, their stories interweaving, as do themes in a fugue. The difficulty was, of course, not to confuse the reader and it was not until the eighth or ninth try that I found the right way; that it was right seems shown by the fact that, with few exceptions, neither critics nor readers have noticed it, only what Chaucer calls “the thinne subtil kinittinges of thinges”. Some years later I used the same technique with five generations, not three, living in a country house, China Court.

September 1975 R.G.

And from the frontispiece:

…two, three or four simultaneous melodies which are constantly on the move, each going its own independent way. For this reason the underlying harmony is often hard to decipher, being veiled in a maze of passing notes and suspensions…. Often chords are incomplete: only two tones are sounded so that one’s imagination has to fill in the missing third tone.

A SENTENCE DESCRIBING BACH’S FUGUES WRITTEN BY LAWRENCE ABBOT

*****

And for Rolls personally the poem he found:

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion…
…In my end is my beginning.

T.S. Eliot (East Coker)

*****

Man that is born of a woman has but a short time to live…He cometh up, and is cut down like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

Children and the fruit of the womb are a heritage and a gift …. Like as arrows in the hand of a giant even so are the young young children.

THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

*****

The story starts with the disclosure that a house that has been home to a family for almost a century is about to be pulled down as soon as the ninety-nine-year lease is up. The elderly lone occupant, apparently the last survivor of a once flourishing family, Sir Roland (Rolls) Dane, is shocked and appalled at the thought of having to give up his  home.

The house, it seems, is more important than the characters. ‘In me you exist’,’ says the house.

For almost a hundred years, for ninety-nine years, it has enhanced, embraced and sheltered the family, but there is no doubt it can go on without them. “Well” the family might have retorted, “We can go on without you.” There should be no question of retorts nor of acrimony. The house and family are at their best and most gracious together.

The question of their parting had arisen. The lease was up. “And the owners are not prepared to renew,” said Mr. Willoughby, putting his despatch case on the table.

“But they can’t pull down my house!” cried Rolls; but he cried it silently because he was perfectly sensible of the fact that they could and that it was not his house. He was sensible, and at the same time he was outraged. Outraged he said in a voice that was muffled for all its calm, “I don’t want the family to go out of the house.”

The only remaining family was Rolls himself, but Mr. Willoughby could hardly point that out. He wondered what there was slightly unusual about the sentence Rolls had just said, and presently, pondering, h thought it would have been more usual if Rolls had said, “I don’t want the house to go out of the family.” Families possessed houses: not houses the family…

So Rolls reluctantly accepts his fate, and, with his manservant Proutie (himself a life-long devotee of No. 99 Wiltshire Place), slowly starts to prepare for the unthinkable change.

And here the author sets the stage and starts to introduce the many characters whose lives and times make up the story’s “fugue”. We don’t yet know who they are or how they fit in, but their names are teasingly mentioned: Selina, Lark, Verity, Griselda…

In the house the past is present.

It is the only house in the Place that has a plane tree in the garden; for many years a Jewish family lives next door, and every year on the Feast of Tabernacles they would ask for the branches of the tree and built a little Succah on their balcony. All the houses have balconies, long ones across the French doors of the drawing-rooms at the back, and all the balconies have scrolled iron steps that lead down into the garden. The gardens are narrow and long, various in their stages of cultivation and neglect, heavily sooted as well. The gardens have an unmistakable London smell from the closed-in walls, and the earth that is heavy and old, long undisturbed; the smell has soot in it too, and buried leaves, and the ashes of bonfires, and the smell of cat; any child, sent out to play, comes in with the smell; it is part of the memory of Selina and Rolls and the other children and Lark…

The roots of the plane tree are under the house. Rolls likes to fancy sometimes, lately, that the plane tree is himself. ‘Its roots are in the house and so are mine,’ he said. …He flattered himself. The plane tree is more than Rolls, as is another tree of which Rolls is truly a part: it is a tree drawn on parchment, framed and hung over the chest in the hall by the grandfather clock. Selina draws it, marking the Danes in their places as they are born and die, making a demarcation line in red ink for the time they come to live in the house in the autumn of eighteen forty-one.

“We existed before you, you see,” the family might have said to the house; and the house, in its tickings, its rustlings, its creaking as its beams grow hot, grow cold: as its ashes fall in its grates, as its doorbells ring, as the trains in passing underneath it vibrate in its walls, as footsteps run up and down the stairs; as dusters are shaken, carpets beaten, beds turned down and dishes washed; as windows are opened or shut, blinds drawn up, pulled down; as the tap runs and is silent; as the lavatory is flushed; as the piano is played and books are taken down from the shelf, and brushed picked up and then laid down again on the dressing-table, and flowers are arranged in a vase; as the medicine bottle is shaken; as, with infinite delicate care, the spillikins are lifted in the children’s game; as the mice run under the wainscot the house might steadfastly reply, “I know! I know! All the same, in me you exist.”

And against the melodious pattern of the house and its many inhabitants there comes a stronger strain, as the story of the current time appears and plays itself out, with continual references to what lies before and behind. The doorbell rings, and Proutie announces the appearance of an unsuspected great-niece, Grisel Dane, come to England in this early year of the war as a member of a volunteer corps of woman ambulance drivers. Grisel is unhappy in her billet, and has remembered that she has a London relative. Savagely resentful of this disturbance, Rolls refuses to see her, but Grisel is fully as determined a person as her great-uncle, and she moves in to one of the empty bedrooms, determined at first merely to gain some physical comfort in, but soon becoming immersed in her ancestral family’s history for the few months remaining before the move.

Another important family connection also appears, and the inevitable love story plays itself out to the backdrop of the increasing violence of the war. We sense that an inevitable doom of some sort is coming, but we are not sure quite who or what will be lost.

Rumer Godden creates some well-drawn characters among the Danes and their associates. I found Griselda, mother of Rolls and his eight siblings, the most appealing of them all, with her yearnings for a larger world than that which she is trapped in, and her eventual attainment of a rich inner life which compensates in a small way for her over-possessive husband, her long succession of loved and cared-for yet not particularily welcome children, and the continual frustrations of her life as a Victorian upper class woman with strong societal strictures of behaviour to follow.

The strength of this book is in its style rather than its plot or characters; while they are well enough handled, they are secondary to the overall pattern. I almost think that this is intentional on the author’s part, but I was disappointed in her handling of the conclusion; it felt a little too pat; everything came predictably full circle. I fully understand the satisfaction that the author might feel in neatly winding things up, but sometimes a strong, even discordant climax is more memorable to even the most melodious composition than an easily anticipated, repetitive ending phrase.

Highly recommended for Rumer Godden fans, especially if you liked China Court. One of the lesser-known works of this author; I had something of a challenge finding a reasonably priced copy; they’re out there but in nothing like the abundance of many of her other titles.

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Pippa Passes by Rumer Godden ~ 1994. This edition: Macmillan, 1994. First Edition. Hardcover. ISBN: 0-333-60817-8. 172 pages.

My rating: 5/10

This was a really quick read, so I’ll give it a really quick review.

Seventeen-year-old Phillipa, “Pippa”, is a ballet dancer in a British troupe visiting Venice. Über-talented both in dance and voice, Pippa has led the sheltered life of a cloistered and protected performing arts student, so her first trip abroad, and to romantic Venice at that, finds her wide-eyed and naïve. She immediately encounters a handsome young gondolier, and falls deeply in love. He is attracted in turn, but his motivations are slightly different than purely romantic.

In the meantime, Pippa’s ballet mistress has become infatuated with her, leading to much scheming and heartache and culminating in an attempted lesbian rape scene; a bit of a shocker from this particular author, but in retrospect not all that surprising; Rumer Godden was never shy of acknowledging the power of sex and using it as a motivator for her characters over the years; I think that the fairly graphic incident here is merely the well-experienced 87-year-old author keeping up with the times.

This was Godden’s second to last published novel before her death in 1998, and while not one of her top-rank tales it is certainly competently written and acceptable as a light read. Don’t expect another House of Brede, though! This one is fluff straight through.

Very nice evocation of Venice; as usual Godden handles her setting with great skill.

Weakest point, aside from the rather lame plot, is that the characters are all quite one-dimensional. We are continually told that Pippa is wonderfully talented and oh-so-special; we must take the author at her word as we never really get too close to Pippa herself. Things seem to happen just a little too easily throughout; there is a lot of glossing over of motivations and actions. This almost feels like a moderately fleshed-out outline of what could perhaps be a much longer and more interesting story.

I wouldn’t recommend this novel as anything but a momentary diversion. It definitely belongs in a Godden collection, and is interesting enough to have limited re-read status, but it really isn’t up to the standard of some of Godden’s masterworks. As I’ve said before, Godden had a great range in her stories; this is on the pallid end of the spectrum. Still better than some of the present-day chick lit I’ve attempted, so extra points for that. Even at her worst, Godden is still good. If you can get this one cheap, take it to the beach, but don’t forget to tuck something else in your bag as well, because slight little  Pippa, at less than 200 pages, will pass by very quickly!

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A House with Four Rooms by Rumer Godden ~ 1989. This edition: William Morrow, 1989. Hardcover. ISBN: 0-688-08629-2. 319 pages.

My rating: 7/10

A must-read for any Rumer Godden fan, though in my opinion not nearly as gripping as her first memoir, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep.

Four Rooms starts with Godden’s permanent return to England, and follows her through her ongoing struggles as a divorced mother of two young children, working to support them with her pen.

Lots of name-dropping ensues as Rumer Godden’s books increasingly grow in popularity and she starts to move in exalted literary and film-making circles; while not terribly offensive this occasionally feels a bit gratuitous. But it was the reality of her life; she did truly gain the high stature her celebrity friends and compatriots suggest, and those circles became her natural habitat, so to pretend she was still a simple soul in a country cottage would be misleading.

She describes the long courtship by her second husband, and her emotional difficulties committing to a second marital experience after the abysmal disaster of her first tragic marriage. The second union had its ups and downs but Godden’s description of James’ final years and death is poignantly sorrowful, if rather briefly referred to. I certainly felt that her love and grief were sincere.

Fascinating glimpses into the backgrounds of many of the novels from The River onwards, plus details of Godden’s growing stature as a children’s writer and advocate for literacy which was a major interest in her later years. She also refers to her conversion to the Roman Catholic faith, and her sincere admiration for the Anglican and Catholic nuns, brothers and priests she met throughout her life, and those she came to know intimately during her research into her masterwork, In This House of Brede.

All in all an enlightening and extremely readable memoir by a gifted and memorable writer. And I do believe she was often her own harshest critic, seeing her work with true clarity, though she occasionally bridled at negative comments from reviewers on the “slightness” of some of her books.

Rumer Godden’s life spanned nearly the whole 20th Century. Born in 1907, she died at the age of 90 in 1998, actively writing almost until the very end. Her last novel, Cromartie vs. the God Shiva, was published in 1997, less than a year before her death. A fascinating and gallant woman, who weathered many personal storms, some of her own creation.

Rumer Godden’s much-quoted words sum up her philosophy in the mature years of her long and creative life:

There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.

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The Peacock Spring by Rumer Godden ~ 1975. This edition: Viking, 1976. Hardcover. 243 pages.

My rating: 7/10

Two English half-sisters are sent from boarding school in England to join their divorced U.N.-diplomat father in India.

15-year-old Una and younger sister Halcyon (Hal) are respectively gifted in mathematical ability and singing; Una in particular worries that their new Eurasian governess-teacher will not be able to teach to the standard required to qualify her for entrance to Oxford. This proves to be the case; Miss Alix Lamont turns out to have other qualities which the girls’ father, Sir Edward Gwithiam, has chosen her for; namely her beauty and personal charms. He is openly infatuated with Alix, and the girls’ presence is meant to give a plausible reason for her inclusion in his household.

Una and Alix find themselves in the position of jockeying for position in Sir Edward’s affections; Alix is strongly entrenched, and Sir Edward intends to marry her. Una, smarting from her father’s rejection (she was always his confidante, but he has distanced himself from both of his daughters since Alix gained his interest), becomes involved with Ravi, a young Indian gardener on attached to the U.N. estate, who is actually a well-born Brahmin student in hiding for his part in a violent political protest. Meanwhile, Hal has become infatuated with the son of a deposed Rajah, Vikram, who is in turn in love with Alix. This seething mass of emotional undercurrents leads to Una’s disastrous flight with Ravi and the laying bare and reworking of all of the relationships thus involved.

Quite a well-done story; generally plausible and sympathetically told. All characters are well-developed and complex, and are treated very fairly by their author in that we see the multiple facets of their personalities and fully understand their motivations. The ending is quite realistic, though not perhaps what one could call “happy”; the various characters move out of our vision with these particular issues resolved but many more looming. All in all I thought it was one of Godden’s better coming-of-age novels; I enjoyed it more than I initially thought I would from the reviews I had read.

Suitable for young adult to adult. Frank but not explicit sexual content including extramarital relationships and the sexual involvement between a schoolgirl and an older man; pregnancy and abortion are discussed though mostly by implication. Rumer Godden in this novel has kept abreast of the times; she was 69 when this novel was published and though a bit dated here and there the tone is generally contemporary.

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Mooltiki and Other Stories and Poems of India by Rumer Godden ~ 1957.    This edition: Macmillan & Co., 1957. Hardcover. 136 pages.

My rating: 7/10. Rather uneven collection of fair to excellent stories and mostly merely fair poems.

A slender volume of poems and short stories set in India.

BENGAL

  • Bengal River a poem
Nothing can mollify the sky,
the river knows
only its weight and solitude, and heat, sun-tempered cold,
and emptiness and birds; a boat; trees; fine white sand,
and deltas of cool mud; porpoises; crocodiles;
and rafts of floating hyacinth; pools and water-whirls
and, nurtured in blue mussel shells, the sunset river pearls.
                                                                                                            … … …
  • Possession

The rice field lay farthest from the village, nearest the road. On all sides the plain unrolled in the sun with a pattern of white clouds, white pampas grass in autumn and white paddy birds, and glimpses of sky-reflecting water from the jheels or shallow pools. The sky met the horizon evenly all the way round in the flatness of the plain, an immense weight of sky above the little field, but the old peasant Dhandu did not look at the sky, he looked at his field; he did not know that it was little; to him it was the whole world. He would take his small son Narayan by the wrist and walk with him and say, ‘This field belonged to my grandfather and your great-grandfather; to my father and your grandfather; it is mine, it will be yours.’

But life-plans may go horribly awry; Dhandu’s does not follow its anticipated path; in an ironic ending, which I somehow found reminiscent of W.W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw, the field stays with Dhandu but is forever lost to his son.

  • Sister Malone and the Obstinate Man

Sister Malone is a nun in charge of a charity hospital in Calcutta; she is unshaken by the horrible sufferings all around her and does great good with her nursing abilities, but her continual effort to share her religious faith with those she heals goes unheeded. One day Sister Malone meets a man who has truly put all of his trust in God, but she cannot reconcile this with her own conception of what faith should be.

  • The Oyster

Gopal, a Bhramini Hindu student who has travelled abroad to study in England, visits Paris with a friend and is forced to examine the role of compromise in the formation of his own developing character.

HIMALAYAN NOMADS

  • The Goat PeoplePastoral Poems

Nine poems inspired by the nomadic peoples of the Himalayas of Northern India.

The tribes pass all through the spring, pitching their camp at night and lighting their fires under a boulder, a fir tree, or by an ice stream; moving on again at dawn, driving with a peculiar trembling whistle that is their own, something between a hawk’s cry and a flute, harsh, sweet and wild…

… I have tried to make these poems like the people, rough and rhythmical … without symbolism or image, simple and pastoral.

The Meadow

The Caravan

Flowers for the Animals 

The Elders

The Goat Women

The Animals

The Goat Children

The Goat Baby

Moving Downwards

  • Red Doe

A vignette of a young nomad riding up the mountain to fetch his unseen new wife. Sensitive and poignant.

  • The Little Black Ram

An orphan boy, Jassoof,

… a young thief, a bully, noisy, quarrelsome and turbulent, against everyone with everyone against him…

finds his place in the world through his care of a black ram lamb.

KASHMIR

  • The Wild Duck

Another vignette piece, about a young Kashmiri hunter, Khaliq, who, longing for winter to be over, thinks of his time the previous year among the high  mountains hunting ibex.

  • Two Sonnets

Just that; two sonnets. A regretful ode to winter; a joyful ode to spring.

Kashmiri Winter

Spring Sonnet

JUNGLE

  • Mooltiki

This first-person short story (24 pages)  is the jewel of this slight collection. Rumer Godden tells of her experiences in her sister and brother-in-law’s winter camp on the borders of Bhutan. Mooltiki, a small, opinionated elephant, is the “maid-of-all-work” of the camp, fetching firewood and providing transport for odd jobs, such as Rumer Godden’s small jungle explorations. Godden writes an amusing and appreciative ode to Mooltiki and her elephant kin, as well as an extremely evocative description of what if feels like to be involved as an observor in several “blinds” for problem tiger kills.

*****

Mooltiki is an interesting though quite slight collection of fictional short stories (except for the autobiographical title piece, decidedly the best part of the collection) and personal poems; after reading it through several times I must confess that my conclusion is that Godden was a much stronger writer of prose than of poetry!

Nicely done overall, with Godden’s trademark of strong, eloquent characterizations and descriptions of place. Definitely a work any Rumer Godden collector will want to have on the shelf; probably worth a purchase for Mooltiki alone, if it can be found for a reasonable sum.

The biggest fault is the shortness of the book; about an hour`s worth of reading, even if taking one`s time and savouring the beautifully nuanced style of most of the pieces. I thought the poems were the weakest point; some of the stories were excellent (Mooltiki, Red Doe, The Little Black Ram, and possibly Possession, stood out for me), while the others are merely good.

Recommended, with those reservations.

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A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep by Rumer Godden ~ 1987. This edition: Beech Tree Books (William Morrow), 1987. Hardcover. ISBN: 0-688-07421-9. 243 pages.

My rating: 10/10

A must-read for anyone with an acquaintance with  Rumer Godden’s body of work, and a fascinating stand-alone autobiography that will send the reader unfamiliar with her titles on a search to find out more. The first half of her two-volume autobiography, it covers the years 1907 to 1946; Rumer’s childhood in India and her various travels up until her ultimate return to England in 1946.

There is so much packed into this book, as there was in Godden’s life, that I will not attempt to give a detailed overview, merely a blanket recommendation – very good reading.

Rumer Godden was a complex personality; her novels and stories are often drawn directly from her own life and experiences. She could not have been an easy woman to be around, being one of the “driven” writers; she fully acknowledges this in this memoir; in many ways it feels somewhat like an apology to her family and her friends.

The latter part of the book, concerning Godden’s time living at Dove House in the Kashmir hills, was the basis for the novel Kingfishers Catch Fire. The reality was even more intense than the fictional account that it inspired; Godden delves deep into her motivation for that socially astounding retreat from the “proper” Anglo-Indian community, and she comments as well on the effects of that self-imposed isolation on her two young children. Jane and Paula were at that time, I believe, seven and five years old, and it would be fascinating to hear their own childhood memories of their wandering life with their mother. I am wondering if either of them has written about their lives in their turn. Vaguely I am thinking that there is a daughter’s memories of Rumer Godden out there somewhere.

This memoir reads like a novel, only it is so much better than anything fictional Godden wrote, because it is a personal examination of experiences, thoughts and emotions based on the writer’s “truth” (always stranger and richer than fiction), and it therefore shines a radiant light on both the personal life of this extremely talented and passionate writer, as well as showing the framework of her subsequent stories. Keep in mind that this is one person’s version of events, as Godden herself comments in the dedication:

For Jane and Paula.

This book is my life as a young writer; to me and my kind life itself is a story and we have to tell it in stories – that is the way it falls. I have told the truth and nothing but the truth, yet not the whole truth, because that would be impossible.

Most highly recommended.

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