The Peacock Spring Essay - Critical Context

Rumer Godden

Critical Context

An award-winning author of books for children, Rumer Godden has also seen many of the novels that she wrote with adults in mind find a place on the shelves in school libraries and even on textbook lists. In addition to The Peacock Spring, especially popular with young adults are An Episode of Sparrows (1955), a story of war-ravaged London, and Greengage Summer (1958), a semiautobiographical account of adventures in France’s wine country. Like her novels The River (1946) and The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1963), these are coming-of-age stories, with appealing young protagonists, told with Godden’s characteristic sensitivity and understanding.

Increasingly, however, Godden is recognized as a writer about multicultural issues. Her love of India, where she spent the first twelve years of her life, and of the people who live there is evident in all of her works with an Indian setting. These works include books for children, such as The Valiant Chatti-Maker (1983); novels whose protagonists are young adults, such as The River, The Peacock Spring, and Breakfast with the Nikolides (1942); and works focusing more specifically on adults, such as Black Narcissus (1939), which concerns a group of nuns in the Himalayas, and Kingfishers Catch Fire (1953), whose central character is a widow living in Kashmir. In her autobiography A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (1987), Godden describes her Indian childhood as a wonderful period in her life, when she and her sisters lived happily within a close and loving family, stimulated by the beauty and the richness of the alien culture that flourished just outside their door. Although Godden recognizes that Indian society had rules as rigid as those of the British subjects, it is significant that she herself did not feel repressed until, at twelve, she found herself immured in a boarding school in England, nor did she feel alienated until she was, in expatriate terms, “at home.” It is appropriate that, as young adults learn to appreciate cultures other than their own, they turn to Godden who, while recognizing the problems that are inevitable when one lives in a multicultural society, believes that they are far outweighed by the rewards.