Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More really old books

A patron came to the reference desk last week and asked my help to find "a really old book that I probably should have read a long time ago." It made me think about really old books that I love, so I decided to tell you about some of them. My next author is...

Rumer Godden

Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature (accessed through our Literature Resource Center database! go to our website and click on "databases") characterizes Godden as "a writer whose many works reflect her personal experiences in colonial India and in England.... Underlying themes are problems of cultures in conflict, and obsessive love." Her books pay attention to the small details of life that others overlook, and give an intimate glimpse into the internal workings of her characters.

Many people know Godden for her children's books, such as A Doll's House, The Mousewife, and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower. But I discovered her through her adult books, and if I can pick a favorite, that would probably be China Court. Godden uses the devices of an old country manor and a medieval book of hours to explore the the lives of several generations of people who have lived in the house, including an unhappy spinster daughter who steals from the housekeeping money to buy books; an orphan girl from a miner's family who aspires to marry the wealthy young heir to the manor; and an insecure granddaughter for whom the house--and the grandmother who lives there--are her only rock in an uncertain world. Godden's book An Episode of Sparrows pits a bossy garden club matron against a bunch of street urchins, as they battle over the use of "good garden earth" while observed by the matron's timid housebound sister, who wonders why the garden must be fenced off from use by all. In This House of Brede tells the story of a successful civil servant who decides at the age of 40 to give up her lifestyle, position and belongings to join a cloistered nunnery. Don't miss Greengage Summer, or The Battle for the Villa Fiorita, both coming-of-age stories in their own way. I also love Two Under the Indian Sun, a memoir written in collaboration with her sister, Jon Godden, which chronicles their childhood in India. Jon Godden's mystery In Her Garden is likewise a treat.

More "old" authors to come...

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