Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden

I love it when I discover a new-to-me author.

Margaret Rumer Godden (1907 - 1998) was an English author who wrote over 60 books of fiction and non-fiction.

She had a fascinating childhood.

Her father was a shipping company executive in Narayananj, India (now in Bangladesh). She and her three sisters spent their childhood divided between time in Colonial India and boarding school back in England. Godden trained as a dance teacher and returned to India to run a dance school with one of her sister's for twenty years.

She wrote her first novel during this time, in 1939, The Black Narcissus.

The Greengage Summer was written in 1958.

My 2013 Pan Macmillan edition has a preface from Godden herself explaining that this story is 'partly true'.

When she was 15 (in 1922), her mother, in a fit of despair declared 'we are going to the Battlefields of France.'

What followed was an exquisite coming of age tale about discovery, deceit and international thieves! Godden evoked the long, hot, lazy summer of rural France to perfection. All those awkward young adult urges and desires are remembered in painful detail. She also used foreshadowing and hindsight to great effect via her narrator, Cecil.

I enjoyed reading the story not knowing which bits were real and which bits were made up. The story was deliciously melodramatic at times and I would think, 'that can't possibly be true.' Reading the preface at the end was a wonderful realisation that sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction.

I loved this so much, that I have now ordered a couple of Godden's Indian based stories - The Peacock Spring and Coromandel Sea Change.

My early thoughts on The Greengage Summer are here.

Highly recommended as an easy, engaging read when you're in the mood for a simple but pleasurable break from your heavier reads.


  1. I read Black Narcissus earlier this year - a great introduction to her writing. It's nice to know there's plenty more of her stuff to explore...

    1. Black Narcissus seems to be out of print, so I'll just have to visit a few 2nd hand bookshops #thethingswehavetodo !!

  2. I have loved Rumer Godden since I read her children's books as a child myself: lovely to see more people discovering her!

    1. Would her children's books still be enjoyable reads for an adult? Or are they good purely from a nostalgic point of view?

    2. A lot of them are in the middle, for any audience, I'd say go for it, as they're all well-written!

  3. I have yet to read this book, but I love Rumer Godden's writing. You have some wonderful books ahead of you!

    1. I'm delighted to hear her writing style remained consistent over the years. Many more delights ahead of me :-)

      Do you have a favourite?

  4. I love this one - she gets in a real sense of menace; one just waits in suspense for something to shatter.

    1. I loved that sense of not quite knowing which direction the book was going - sinister, romantic, predatory, disturbing. The mix of real added to the uneasiness I think.

      Do you have a favourite Godden?

  5. Anonymous29/9/16

    Re-read your early thoughts about the book. Always a surprise how a book effects you at the beginning (0-30%) and what you are left with at the end. Coming of age books draw the reader in (Human Bondage, Le Garcon, The Tin Drum)...but I feel exhausted after following a life for so many pages! I never heard of this author M. Godden...but do remember vivdly the movie version The Black Narcissus! The fact that you have ordered more of Godden's book is a good sign...writer not to be missed. Thx for telling me about her!

  6. Anonymous30/9/16

    I've seen this name float around, and all the reviews I've read have been so positive. Her books are hard to get around here, so I had written off reading anything by her. Then I went into the library the other, browsed around, and saw that there were 3 or 4 of her books just sitting there. That's what I get for not checking the library catalog sooner... I'm glad you enjoyed this book!

  7. I've only read some of her children's books which are lovely, but I've had 'In THis House of Brede' on the shelf waiting for me for a couple of months now.


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