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A time to dance, no time to weep by Rumer…
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A time to dance, no time to weep (original 1987; edition 1987)

by Rumer Godden

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140586,313 (3.93)18
Member:Leslie_L.J.
Title:A time to dance, no time to weep
Authors:Rumer Godden
Info:New York : Beech Tree Books, c1987.
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A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep by Rumer Godden (1987)

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An inspirational life well recounted. I get the feeling that while biographically very accurate and open, Rumer Godden in this memoir somewhat censored her innermost life - the emotions, etc, which are mostly evidenced in diary/correspondence excerpts. Or beautifully written in her novels, which, it turns out, are often highly autobiographical. ( )
  allisonneke | Dec 17, 2013 |
In A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep, Godden describes her life from childhood until she was 38. Her stories of her early life in India with her 3 sisters and her Fa and Mam are magical:

'The feel of the sunbaked Indian dust between sandals and bare toes; that and the smile. It was the honey smell of the fuzz-buzz flowers, of thorn trees in the sun, and the smell of open drains and urine, of coconut oil on shining black human hair, of mustard cooking oil and blue smoke from cow dung used as fuel; it was a smell redolent of the sun, more alive and vivid than anything in the 'West.'

After a brief sojourn in England for the minimal education she received, she returned to India for her debut and the social whirl of the next few years as a privileged young woman of the Raj. She became pregnant, and married a man who at the beginning of World War II left her for another woman, as well as leaving her with huge gambling debts, which she paid with the bulk of her royalties from Black Narcissus. She then wondered what if: 'instead of living to get money to spend, we lived by not spending? Somewhere away, where it would be so quiet and simple that a little would go a long way?'

She and her daughters moved to Kashmir, which she describes so, so beautifully that at times I felt I was there, and moved into an abandoned house, which she fixed up enough to make habitable. There was no running water, no indoor plumbing, and no electricity, and they grew most of their own food. She continued to write, now the sole support of her family. The book ends with the end of World War II.

While Godden has been praised for her depictions of the details and the panorama of life in India, in this book the Indian people are depicted only as servants. Even when she was so 'poor' in Kashmir that she had to grow her own food, she had a cook (who in an interesting side story tried to poison her and her daughters by putting ground glass and opium in their food). Here's an example of how I see she viewed her relationship with the Indian people:

'The Bloomfield's own home was in one of the wide tree-shaded roads of New Dehli, with spacious houses and gardens, even the roundabouts set with fountains and flowers, all seeming so rich that it was a shock to see an old woman, in a tattered grey-white sari, sweeping up dust and leaves with a twig-broom; to see among the gleaming cars and carriages rickshaws pulled by straining little men, sweat pouring down their faces, muscles over-bulging on their poor thin leg; few rickshaw men survive after they are thirty years old.' Of course, the rajahs are quite another matter.l

I enjoyed the feel of the natural beauty of India Godden is able to convey. However, given the time at which Godden wrote the book (1987), I am appalled at her failure to acknowledge her position as a privileged member of the Raj and that she did not truly know 'the real India,' nor did she apparently care to.

Although she has written a second volume, A House With Four Rooms, which describes her life in England after World War II up to her 70's, I probably won't read it. ( )
1 vote arubabookwoman | Jun 29, 2011 |
i thought this would be better. disjointed but maybe her life was disjointed. something was wrong but i don't quite know what. ( )
  mahallett | Dec 9, 2010 |
2326 A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep, by Rumer Godden (read 20 Sep 1990) This is the first volume of the author's autobiography. She was born in 1907 and spent most of her life up to 1945 in India. She tells of her youth, her unsuccessful marriage, her years in World War II in India. She writes well, but I am not sure it is worth reading. ( )
  Schmerguls | May 28, 2008 |
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