Saturday, 2 June 2007

Holiday Reading 2:Rumer Godden

Why, I wondered, had I never read Kingfishers Catch Fire? Still it was good to have such a treat in reserve. The other books of Godden's which I've read - and she wrote 60 all told - are The River and Black Narcissus, both of which were made into films. (I saw the latter when it came out in 1947, when I was ten years old - taken to the cinema by my father - and can remember the colours and atmosphere of it to this day.)
Kingfishers Catch Fire, published in 1953, is a fictionalised acount of the period she spent living frugally in a cottage in Kashmir; she depicts herself as a free spirit who for various reasons is hard up, but in real life she was grimly trying to write to earn money in order to repay the debts which accrued in the collapse of her marriage.

The story gives a convincing picture of the way of life and characters of a particular place and time, without in any way glamourising them or presenting an 'idyll' - although only a Kashmiri would be able to tell us how 'true' it is!

During her time in Kashmir, as well as writing books, Godden set up, and taught in, a school and practised herbal medicine. The family survived an apparent poisoning attempt by two servants, all of which is incorporated into the novel.

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