Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Greengage Summer

He laughed and put his arm round my neck, his hand under my dress. I jumped as, quite casually and calmly, he felt my breasts, but he took his hand away. "Deux petits citrons," he said and laughed. Citrons! Lemons! He laughed again at the outraged look on my face ...
Frustrated by the spoilt behaviour of her adolescent daughters, Mrs Grey decides to take them to the battlefields of France to teach them a lesson in humility. On the journey she becomes desperately ill and has to deposit her five children who range in age from four to sixteen at a French hotel on the Marne. The owner of the hotel, Madame Zizi, is reluctant to take the children in until persuaded by her English boyfriend the kindly and debonair Eliot.

Thus begins a wild summer for the children. Befriended by Eliot they roam, Les Oillets, and its ancient orchard with seven alleys of greengage trees while their mother recuperates. Narrated by Cecil (short for Cicely) who is literally on the verge of womanhood it soon becomes apparent that the Gatsby-like Eliot is not all he seems. With her elder sister, Joss, blossoming daily matters come to a head when a party is held at the hotel and Joss decides to wear a dress called Sin.

13 comments:

Penny said...

This looks like another goodie! And I think I have it somewhere! But where... Needle in a haystack time, I fear...

Teresa said...

Funny. I'd never heard of this book until last week, when one of my co-workers was reading it. I do want to give Rumer Godden a try one day (well, to read something besides The Story of Holly and Ivy which I read over and over every Christmas).

kissacloud said...

This sounds fun. Since you began writing about her, I've been keeping her on my radar.. thanks.

bibliolathas said...

I've just re-read Greengage Summer - isn't it brilliant? It's the only one which I've read (so far!). I am going to enjoy your Rumer Godden month a lot -- it's a great pick. I will definitely be reading some more ASAP.

bookssnob said...

This sounds fantastic! I'd love to read this...perfect summer reading. Rumer Godden is an author who appears to have passed me by, but I would very much like to try her now you've written such a tantalising review!

LizF said...

Really must read The Greengage Summer again, as soon as I can prise my copy away from Junior daughter who is re-reading it again!
I have just acquired the first volume of Rumer Godden's memoirs for the princely sum of 1p (plus postage of course). As I plan to read it quite soon, do you want me to send it to you when I have finished?

Sara said...

This is a wonderful story. Years ago I found a volume of hers that includes The Greengage Summer, An Episode of Sparrows, and The Battle of the Via Fiorita...I re-read all of them in the past year or two and enjoyed them even more the second time around.

Have you read Two Under the Indian Sun? She and her sister wrote it about their childhood in India.

A Bookish Space said...

Rumer Godden seems to have passed me by until now. Your recent posts about her have convinced me that I need to add Rumer Godden to my list of authors to read.

Mystica said...

This sounds good and first time I am reading anything about it. Will give it a try.

Vintage Reading said...

Penny, well worth a read, do let me know what you think.

Teresa, your co-worker has good taste! I've not read The Story of Holly and Ivy, must get a copy.

kissacloud, look forward to your review!

bibliolathas, The Greengage Summer is right up there with I Capture the Castle and The Catcher in the Rye as a classic tale of teenage angst in my opinion. I'm giving myself a holiday from Victorian lit and biographies to indulge in Rumer Godden!

booksnob, Godden is certainly perfect for summer. I always like the detail in your reviews so I do hope you write about it on your blog.

LizF, sadly my daughters are uninterested in Godden - can't prise them away from Twilight and Eclipse! I would love to borrow the first volume of the memoirs - if you'd like any of the novels let me know and we'll arrange a swap!

Sara, wish I could find some vintage Godden in a used bookstore. I think reading them as an adult gives a whole new perspective. I've not read anything Godden co-wrote with her sisters - I love the way she draws on her childhood memories of India in Coromandel Sea Change and The Peacock Spring, so I think I'd like to read it.

A Bookish Space, I recommend The Greengage Summer to start with. A short novel and perfect summer read.

Mystica, please post a review!

EllenB said...

Everyone please read The River by Godden and see the film by Jean Renoir which is available on DVD. Both are stunning works. I also liked In This House of Brede.

Vintage Reading said...

Ellen, hi, I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of In This House of Brede.

Mrs. B. said...

I loved this one. The images are still fresh in my mind. I hosted a group read of this last year.