Rumer Had It

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What did Rumer Godden have?  Energy, clearly and a sense of discipline that must have come naturally…

I’ve just finished a memoir penned by Godden entitled, A House with Four Rooms.  Before this book, I had read Two Under the Indian Sun written with her sister Jon about their childhood in India.

She was a writer from a far different era than the one in which we live now.  I loved immersing myself in her use of language (very old-fashioned) and her turn of phrase.  Difficult to grasp at first, I soon found myself following the rhythm.  There is a definite cadence to the way she lays down a sentence.

She was an astonishingly prolific writer.  She wrote 22 works of fiction, 9 works of non-fiction, 5 poetry collections, and 20 books for children.  Godden did not seclude herself in a high tower and write while minions brought her tea (although she always seemed to have help).  She wrote novels while running a dance school and raising two children in India, while dealing with a doomed marriage, while surviving attempted poisonings by her staff in Kashmir, as a single mother back in England before marrying her second husband.

When did the woman sleep?  This was in the days before word processors and portable laptops.  She preferred writing by hand, in notebooks with self-described tiny handwriting.  She even shunned typewriters when they were offered to her.

Her gift for descriptive imagery is amazing.  Her descriptions of India, the verdant English countryside, and the plethora of houses she lived in are delicious.  She had the keenest of eyes for detail.  She even makes Pekingese dogs sound nice.

I remember when I was a little girl, my mother got me two Rumer Godden books, Little Plum and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (both were about Japanese dolls who came to live in England, I think).  On my mother’s towering bookshelves were at least two Godden books, This House of Brede and The Battle for the Villa Fiorita (I reached for the latter once but was told “that’s not a book for children.”)

I would love to read more of her work – and the first book of memoir – she was a fascinating author.

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