Form and Content (Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series)
Rumer Godden, the second of four daughters of Arthur Leigh Godden and Katherine Hingley Godden, was born December 10, 1907, in Eastbourne, Sussex. Taken to India in infancy (her father worked for the oldest Indian inland navigation company), she began a childhood that was divided between India and England and that was to have great influence on her career as a writer. A prolific author of children’s books, poetry, novels, and works of nonfiction, Godden has seen six of her stories become films. A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep, the first volume of her autobiography, covers the years 1907 to 1946.
It is clear that Godden’s memories of childhood in India with her sisters are happy ones. Her contacts with servants and villagers of the smaller towns of India introduced her to the variety of religions, ethnic backgrounds, and class systems that made up the social fabric of the great subcontinent. This exposure developed in her a tolerance for diversity and a compassion for those who suffer economic or social exploitation. Unlike many of her compatriots, who never understood, or wished to understand, the rich cultural traditions of the various peoples of India, the young Godden immersed herself in them. Her own experiences as she moved from the warm, exotic beauties of India to the cold, rather puritanical household of her paternal grandmother in London, or a school run by an order of Anglican nuns, taught her the problems of being different. She...
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A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
A year before World War II ended, shortly before Rumer Godden turned forty, she wrote in a letter to her sister Jon:Am re-reading A Room of One’s Own in which Virginia Woolf talks of Shakespeare’s incandescent unimpeded mind. Shakespeare is Shakespeare and he was a man and whether we like it or not that does make a difference; we are impeded in every direction. My mind is a flotsam of figures, sums—I have a perpetual anxiety that makes me constantly check my pass book—of dusters and meals, lessons, codliver oil, Moon on heat and firewood. I know that other women feel frustration, a longing to “express themselves” but with us it isn’t that; it is a constant tug of obligation, as in binding yourself by oath, the feeling that we are dishonouring what is God-given; it is significant that the only women poets down the ages who can be called major were single, or, if you count Elizabeth Barrett Browning—which I do not—married with one child.
While the war intensified her struggle, Godden had worked throughout her life to achieve a balance between the demands of everyday life and a compelling vocation to write.
She had always had a sense of “not being ordinary,” instilled in her undoubtedly by her somewhat eccentric parents. Her father’s work for an Indian inland steamship company meant that the family lived in remote small towns along the great rivers in India—“most of the time in Narayangunj, a jute station in...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Nonfiction Series)
Billington, Michael. “Three Passions in Calcutta,” in The New York Times Book Review. XCIII (January 3, 1988), p. 3.
Booklist. LXXXIV, December 1, 1987, p. 600.
British Book News. Spring, 1987, p. 594.
Glamour. LXXXVI, January, 1988, p. 110.
Godden, Rumer. “On Words,” in The Writer. LXXV (September, 1962), pp. 17-19.
Godden, Rumer. Two Under the Indian Sun, 1966.
Kirkus Reviews. LV, October 15, 1988, p. 1496.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. February 21, 1988, p. 3.
The New Yorker. LXIII, January 25, 1988, p. 112.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXII, November 6, 1987, p. 53.
Simpson, Hassell A. Rumer Godden, 1973.
The Times Literary Supplement. February 26, 1988, p. 216.
Tindall, William Y. “Rumer Godden, Public Symbolist,” in College English. XIII (March, 1953), pp. 297-303.
Wilson Library Bulletin. LXII, April, 1988, p. 91.
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