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Rumer Godden

Rumer Godden

Godden, Rumer (Margaret Rumer Godden), 1907-98, English novelist. Godden was highly praised for the subtlety of her characterization (particularly of children), the charm of her style, and her unflinching focus on characters usually considered marginal. Many of her novels reflect her deep knowledge of India, where she spent her childhood and much of her young adulthood. Her some 70 novels include Black Narcissus (1939), Breakfast with the Nikolides (1942), The River (1946), Greengage Summer (1958), The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1963), In This House of Brede (1969), about life in a Roman Catholic convent in England, The Dark Horse (1981), and Coromandel Sea Change (1991); several were made into successful movies. Other writings include short stories, children's books, and the autobiographies A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (1987) and A House with Four Rooms (1989). Her sister Jon Godden, 1908-84, wrote two novels—In The Sun (1965) and Mrs. Starr Lives Alone (1971)—and collaborated with her sister on Two Under the Indian Sun (1966), about their childhood, and Shiva's Pigeons (1971), a study of India.
Margaret Rumer Godden, OBE (December 10 1907November 8 1998), was an English author of over 60 books, under the name of Rumer Godden.

Born in Sussex, England, Godden grew up with her three sisters in Narayanganj, then part of colonial India. She returned to the United Kingdom with her sisters in her early 20s, training as a dance teacher. She went to Calcutta in 1930 to start a dance school for English and Indian children. Godden ran the school for 20 years with the help of her sister Nancy. During this time she published her first best-seller, Black Narcissus (1939).

Following an unhappy marriage of 8 years, she moved with her two daughters to Kashmir. Remarrying again in 1949, she returned to the United Kingdom to concentrate on writing.

Later on, Godden converted to Roman Catholicism and a number of her books began to deal with the subject of women in religious communities. In books such as Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy and In This House of Brede she acutely examined the balance between the mystical aspects of religion and the submission of the individual to the spiritual discipline. She retired to Moniaive in Dumfriesshire in her 70s. She was appointed OBE in 1993. Rumer Godden died at the age of 90 on November 8 1998. Several of her works were co-written by her sister, Jon Godden, who wrote several novels on her own.

Godden evokes the atmosphere of India through all the senses: her writing is vivid with detail of smells, textures, light, flowers, noises and tactile experiences. Her books for children, especially her several doll stories, convincingly convey the secret thoughts and aspirations of childhood.


  • 1936 Chinese Puzzle, her first published work
  • 1937 Lady and the Unicorn
  • 1939 Black Narcissus, her first book to be made into a film of the same name in 1947 - a story about the disorientation of European nuns in India. A radio adaptation was broadcast in 2008.
  • 1942 Breakfast with the Nikolides
  • 1945 Take Three Tenses: A Fugue in Time, made into a film in 1948, starring David Niven and Teresa Wright
  • 1946 The River, made into a film in 1951 directed by Jean Renoir, and she collaborated on the screenplay for the film
  • 1947 Candle for St. Jude
  • 1950 A Breath of Air
  • 1953 Kingfishers Catch Fire
  • 1956 An Episode of Sparrows, made into a successful movie
  • 1957 Mooltiki, and other stories and poems of India
  • 1958 Greengage Summer, again made into a film
  • 1961 China Court: The Hours of a Country House
  • 1961 Thus Far and No Further
  • 1963 The Battle of the Villa Fiorita
  • 1965 Gypsy, Gypsy
  • 1966 Two Under the Indian Sun (written with Jon Godden)
  • 1968 Gone: A Thread of Stories (written with Jon Godden)
  • 1968 A Letter to the World
  • 1968 Mrs. Manders' Cook Book
  • 1968 Swans and Turtles
  • 1969 Fugue in Time
  • 1969 In This House of Brede, follows Philippa (a cloistered Benedictine nun in the abbey of Brede in Sussex) through her first years in the abbey and not only her, but many of the other nuns who live there as well; made into a TV movie staring Diana Rigg
  • 1972 Shiva's Pigeons (written with Jon Godden)
  • 1975 The Peacock Spring, adapted for television in 1995
  • 1977 Butterfly Lions
  • 1980 Gulbadan: Portrait of a Rose Princess At the Mughal Court
  • 1979 Five For Sorrow, Ten For Joy
  • 1981 The Dark Horse
  • 1984 Thursday's Children
  • 1985 The Tale of the Tales: Beatrix Potter Ballet
  • 1987 A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep, an autobiography
  • 1989 A House with Four Rooms, an autobiography
  • 1989 Indian Dust (written with Jon Godden)
  • 1990 Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love: Stories (written with Jon Godden)
  • 1991 Coromandel Sea Change
  • 1992 Great Grandfather's House
  • 1994 Pippa Passes
  • 1996 Premlata and the Festival of Lights
  • 1996 Cockcrow to Starlight: A Day Full of Poetry
  • 1996 A Pocket Book of Spiritual Poems
  • 1997 Cromartie vs. the God Shiva, her last novel

Children's Books

  • 1947 The Doll's House, later made into an _The_Story_of_a_Dolls%27_House
  • 1951 The Mousewife, a children's book
  • 1952 Mouse House
  • 1954 Impunity Jane: The Story of a Pocket Doll
  • 1956 The Fairy Doll
  • 1958 The Story of Holly and Ivy
  • 1960 Candy Floss
  • 1961 Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, a children's book about Japanese dolls and the house built for them.
  • 1961 Saint Jerome and the Lion
  • 1963 Little Plum, the sequel to Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
  • 1964 Home is the Sailor
  • 1967 The Kitchen Madonna - two children make an icon for their Ukrainian housekeeper, a war refugee.
  • 1969 Operation Sippacik
  • 1972 The Diddakoi (also published as Gypsy Girl}, a children's book and winner of the Whitbread Award. Adapted for television by the BBC as Kizzy.
  • 1972 The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle
  • 1975 Mr. McFadden's Hallowe'en
  • 1977 The Rocking Horse Secret
  • 1978 A Kindle of Kittens
  • 1981 The Dragon of Og
  • 1983 Four Dolls
  • 1983 The Valiant Chatti-Maker
  • 1984 Mouse Time: Two Stories
  • 1990 Fu-Dog
  • 1992 Listen to the Nightingale
  • 1996 The Little Chair


Further reading

Chisholm, Anne. Rumer Godden: A Storyteller's Life. New York: Greenwillow, 1998.


External links

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