A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep has been well received by critics because it clarifies the genesis of Godden’s work. Always reticent about her private life and that of her family, with her autobiography Godden has put many ideas found in her novels into perspective. She is generous toward her first husband, who seems to have been unequal to his responsibilities, and honest in her evaluation of her own actions from the perspective of eighty years. What has been suggested by critics as important to her writing has also been important in her life.
Godden’s autobiography, therefore, expresses cogently the strongly held principles that have always been evident in her writing. Her own experience speaks to the fact that all individuals are part of a culture, and even the best intentioned cannot expect to penetrate another culture fully. One can try to learn, understand, and appreciate the alien point of view, but Englishmen cannot become Indian, and Indians cannot become European, although they may try.
In the book Kingfishers Catch Fire (1953), Sophie Ward wishes to live as the peasants do in Kashmir. Her failure to understand local customs endangers her family, and when her daughter is badly beaten, she realizes that she must leave. During her stay at Dove House in Kashmir, where she went because she had so little money, Godden hoped to live simply, like the peasants; yet she experienced the same failure that Sophie Ward did....
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