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Friday, March 7, 2014

KINGFISHERS CATCH FIRE by RUMER GODDEN


This is only my second read of this prolific author and the second exceeded my expectations after reading the first.

Set in colonial India in 1953 I now discover that this could be partly biographical of the author herself. In this story, Sophie is recently widowed with no money and no pension or passage back to England for herself and her two very small children. Sophie however takes the bold step to stay back in India and make a life for herself there. The difference is that she "goes almost native" in the eyes of the Britishers who are in India by going to live in a very remote village far away from Srinagar which is the closest city and in a village where people have never even seen a white person let alone a white woman and children.

Teresa and Moo the two children are very much part of the complicated story of Sophie and Dilkhush which is the name of the house which Sophie takes on rent for their stay in India. Sophie loves India with a naivety which could be taken for foolishness. In her eyes all peasants are good and decent,and her enthusiasm for putting in new schemes for the benefit of the villagers is unlimited.  She cannot see the other side of the coin that she is considered very rich by the poor country folk and ripe for plucking. She does not heed advice given from either the Pundit who is the owner of the house, Profit David who is a jack of all trades and procurer of anything and everything and neither will she take notice of her chief servant Nabir Dar who warns her repeatedly of her trying to deal with the villagers in the straight forward way of the Britisher.

We watch with horror how the story is unfolding because you know disaster is not very far away and the story telling keeps you on edge because you never know what the repercussions of Sophie's decisions will be. You know that there is heartbreak ahead and even danger not just for Sophie but even for her children. I felt so angry that Sophie could be so naive by putting her two children in such danger, almost deliberately. Teresa is an old head on young shoulders at just eight taking in and understanding India so much better than her mother. The responsibility for her younger brother Moo and even for her mother at times fall on this little one's shoulders who understands the workings and machinations of those around them. The author understands the working of a child's mind so very well and this part of the story is beautifully told. 

A fascinating read. Unfortunately the local library here in Melbourne has no other books by this fabulous author. 

3 comments:

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

It looks like a beautiful book!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

This sounds really interesting, I've been meaning to try Godden for a while.

vicki (skiourophile) said...

Doesn't she do the suspense of knowing something has to go wrong so well? I had my heart in my mouth for most of this book -- she is such an impressive writer.