As the Ecclesiates-based title of A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep suggests, Godden’s early life was marked by dramatic contrasts between joy and sorrow. Her quirky, unorthodox family offered the creative freedom that her first marriage never would; writing became satisfying and cathartic work, but it was often interrupted by the children that Godden had to raise alone; the author would earn a comfortable living and a popular following, but not before money worries and social ostracism had taken their tolls; and although Godden embraced Indian culture as did few Europeans of her time, she was haunted by how a trusted Indian servant had nearly killed her.
The prologue of the A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep is portentous. It depicts a wary twelve-year-old Godden and her older sister, Jon, on a wet English quay, having just arrived from India and left their childhoods behind for formal schooling. India had meant sunlight, family, and inclusion for young Godden; England, as she had briefly known it while living with her aunts and grandmother at age five, proffered dull routine, Anglican piety, and dizzying rules and regulations. As the memoir moves beyond initial chapters on lineage and home life to Godden’s turbulent education, dating years, marriage, and motherhood, the wariness of the twelve-year-old seems to have been warranted. After Godden’s childhood, things often went awry.
Supporting her sister through upheavals...
(The entire section is 492 words.)