Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

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 has retained strong sympathies for Eurasians, who seemed suspended between two worlds, welcome in neither.

There is a balance in her memories of India, golden as they are. Not only did English children suffer separation from their families, but in residence in India they also endured many...

(The entire section is 719 words.)