Rumer Godden Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rumer Godden published children’s picture books and novels as well as adult nonfiction. She retold folktales in The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle (1970). She drew on her interest in dogs, especially the Pekingese, in the children’s book Fu-Dog (1989), and her interest in ballet, in the children’s book Listen to the Nightingale (1992). Godden’s children’s fiction presents a serious exploration of human nature and motivations. Her first children’s book, and the first of her doll stories, The Doll’s House (1947), recounts how Charlotte and Emily Dane’s doll-play rivalry results in the accidental incineration of the doll mother. The Diddakoi (1972) deliberately eschews a romantic portrayal of Roma (Gypsy) life to focus on the clash of cultures that forms the center of most of Godden’s adult fiction. Writer Kingsley Amis, a Whitbread Prize judge, described The Diddakoi as “the sort of book children had to fight for to get it from adults.”

The majority of Godden’s nonfiction was written about India. The early autobiographical volume, Two Under the Indian Sun (1966), is a spare account of her childhood and was written with her sister Winsome Ruth, known as Jon Godden. Godden’s personal memoirs, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (1987), recounting her life until 1945, and A House with Four Rooms (1989), covering her life from 1945 to 1977, include reproduced correspondence and family photographs.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Many of Rumer Godden’s books sold well. Several were made into films, and many were chosen for entry in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books series. In 1991, Coromandel Sea Change received a Booker Prize nomination. Godden’s children’s novel, The Diddakoi, received the following awards: Children’s Book of the Year Award, Whitbread Children’s Book Award, and the Silver Pen (Dutch National Book Award).

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In what ways are The Battle of the Villa Fiorita and A Candle for St. Jude coming-of-age novels?

What sets outsiders in Rumer Godden’s fiction apart from other characters?

How are descriptions of nature used in Godden’s works?

How does Godden view marriage?

How do religious rituals and images function in Godden’s novels?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Chisholm, Anne. Rumer Godden: A Storyteller’s Life. London: Macmillan, 1998. Based on Godden’s autobiographical works and unpublished personal papers as well as extensive interviews, this biography concentrates on the life, the works, and the screenplays made from Godden’s fiction. Includes a list of Godden’s works and an index.

Dukes, Thomas. “Evoking the Significance: The Autobiographies of Rumer Godden.” Women’s Studies 20, no. 1 (1991). Discusses Godden’s autobiographical works and the autobiographical quality in her fiction.

Evans, Gwyneth. “The Girl in the Garden: Variations on a Feminine Pastoral.” Children’s Language Association Quarterly 10, no. 1 (Spring, 1994). A detailed analysis of Godden’s An Episode of Sparrows, comparing it to The Secret Garden.

Rosenthal, Lynne Meryl. Rumer Godden Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1996. Explores Godden’s ideas about self-transformation and acts of will.

Simpson, Hassel A. Rumer Godden. New York: Twayne, 1973. Provides a book-length introduction to Godden’s life and work, giving brief biographical information along with a literary discussion of many of her novels. Good on the early Godden.