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Archive for the ‘Rumer Godden’ Category

I have not been hugely successful with my recent picks.  Everything has sounded so intriguing but then once I started reading nothing has been able to hold my attention.  The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden had been praised by other bloggers but its tepid prose and rather unimaginative plot did nothing for me. 

It was all much ado about nothing for most of the novel.  With their mother sick in hospital, thirteen-year old Cecil Grey (a girl, despite her name) and her siblings are left to their own devices at Les Oeillets, the French hotel where they are vacationing.  But the Greys are not the hotel’s only residents.  Most importantly, there is also Mademoiselle Zizi, the owner of the hotel, and her charming English lover, Eliot, who becomes the children’s de facto guardian while their mother is ill.  And, of course, there is Cecil’s suddenly beautiful sixteen-year old sister Joss…

The tension that is supposedly the allure of the novel is non-existent.  Eliot is a suspicious character from his first introduction and the heavy-handed hints dropped throughout the short novel make certain there is no surprise as the novel reaches its climax.  His brief and rather innocent flirtation with Joss causes the most conflict but, again, it is predictable and tiresome.  Not even the arrival of the police could generate any excitement as I forced through to the conclusion. 

I didn’t find any of the main characters particularly interesting or sympathetic – the only character I liked and wanted to know more about was the loathed Uncle William, too dull and conservative to provoke any affection in the children until he comes to their rescue.

Obviously, this was not a great success with me.  Reading it, I felt much as I did when reading Rosamund Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz earlier this year: a promising premise that never did anything to elevate itself beyond the humdrum.  All the ingredients were there to make it an interesting story: quirky, temporarily parentless-children, a narrator on the cusp of adulthood, a jealous, exotic Frenchwoman, a dashing, mysterious leading man…But a good story is more than just the sum of its parts and this one left me cold. 

I’m still willing to give Godden another try but not sure which of her many books to try.  In This House of Brede seems to come highly recommended but I can’t work up much enthusiasm for the tale of a professional woman who joins a cloistered Benedictine community.  I had wanted to try The Peacock Spring, but my library doesn’t seem to carry it.  Perhaps it would be best to go with Godden’s A Time to Dance, No Time to Weap, the first volume of her memoirs.  Non-fiction is often so much more interesting than fiction, I find.

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