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The Peacock Spring by Rumer Godden

The Peacock Spring (1975)

by Rumer Godden

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A coming-of-age story about two sisters, removed from boarding school in England and sent to be with their father in India. Not all is as it seems for these two impressionable girls. Few of the characters were particularly likeable, and although true to life and credible, the story hinged on family squabbles. The images of India were particularly vivid as the cultures of East and West met head-on. Beautifully written, but not my favourite Godden story. ( )
  VivienneR | Apr 1, 2016 |
Read during Winter 2004/2005

I pulled the video out of the pile to test my DVD to video transfer and forgot how much I enjoyed it so went for a reread of this book. The dramatization followed the book fairly well but there is much more richness of detail in the book. The casting choices don't match very well what Godden wanted, esp. poor Una who is thin and willowly in the book and rather lumplike (but an excellent portrayal) on TV. The book was definetely worth a reread. The story is compelling and the character studies are interesting. Ravi and Una's love story is very believable, as well as Una's blind trust and Ravi's ultimate shallowness and immaturity. The TV adaption adds the twist of Hem's implied homosexuality; there is no hint of it in the book and it doesn't seem to add much except give Hem a motive to do as Ravi wishes.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
The story is of two girls in their early teens who get abruptly pulled out of boarding school to go live with their diplomat father in India. It soon becomes clear to them that their governess is incompetent at teaching, and is in fact their father's mistress. The older girl, Una, is indignant at the sham, while the younger one, Hal, couldn't care less. Hal is thrilled with the sightseeing and parties the governess is trying to distract them with; Una is frustrated at being denied her studies. The better part of the first half of the book is about this subtle battle going on between the girls and the governess, made more interesting by the fact that all the servants resent the woman too, and the girls' father is pretty much oblivious to it all. But then Una meets a gardener who also happens to be a poet, and whose friend is an accomplished mathematician. Suddenly she finds a way to circumvent her governess and continue her studies. What she doesn't really expect is to fall in love...

While this story is not exactly tender, nor are most of the characters extremely likable, there was something about it that kept me intrigued. The further I got the more tangled it all became, until in the end Una was in quite a sticky situation. The ending was quite sad. I found myself feeling sympathy for characters I really didn't like in the beginning, and getting furious at others that I had previously admired. They're all quite deep characters, with layers and ulterior motives and secret thoughts and dumb moments, just like real people... This is not one of my favorite Rumer Godden books, but one I'm certainly hanging onto regardless.

from the Dogear Diary ( )
1 vote jeane | Feb 19, 2012 |
The Peacock Spring by Rumer Godden is a beautifully written, fully characterized coming-of-age story that brought tears to my eyes. As Una and her younger sister Hal are abruptly summoned from their British boarding school to their father’s side in India, they fear that his loneliness has overwhelmed him. When they arrive however, they soon realize that something else, or rather, someone else, is behind this summons. Waiting to be their governess/companion is Alix, a beautiful Eurasian woman, who Una soon realizes is not qualified to teach or really has much interest in the girls.

Seeking to avoid confrontations Una takes to spending time in the gardens and before too long her attention is taken by a young, handsome gardener, Ravi. As these two grow closer, so too, does her father’s relationship with Alix. Alix is a woman of many secrets and as Una slowly uncovers some, she uses them to force Alix into giving Una free control over her time, which she uses to grow ever closer to Ravi.

This story of a family coming apart, being too wrapped up in their own concerns to fully grasp what is happening with each other, spoke volumes to me. Eventually Alix’s secrets come home to roost, and Una finds out that flaunting the rules brings heartbreak and everlasting changes in her relationship with her father. Along with a wonderful story, this book gives a capsule picture of India and the state of race relations during post-colonial times. I highly recommend The Peacock Spring. ( )
10 vote DeltaQueen50 | Feb 6, 2012 |
This was the 2nd second-hand book I bought at Cooma, planning for some light holiday reading at Merimbula. I most certainly misjudged this novel when I thought it might be a good source of light entertainment.

At first I found it extremely frustrating. The "present" of the narrative never remains in place for very long. Every situation encountered engenders either a return to the past, to explain how the present is approached, a future-sweep to examine the knowledge that Una will, later, have, that might inform the present, if she knew about it now, or even a presentation of facts that another, more knowledgeable character, might tell Una, if she were to ask. Every encounter is a melding of past experience and the experience that is yet lacking to make a full picture of the "now". Because the narrative jumps without any visual indication that it has done so, it can at times take a little while to realise that the jump has indeed taken place. Also, for a thin book, it seems to be densely packed and takes quite a lot of reading. I actually found it quite a challenging read and wonder if I would have persevered when I was younger, "Puffin Plus" or no.

At first I was inclined to give up but decided to give it just a little longer. Then I became obstinately determined to find out "what happens" and then, little by little, I became increasingly fascinated by both characters and atmosphere. Before long I was riding the rhythm of changing timelines and bound up in a curiously rich and circular reality. I was completely intrigued by the complex nature of the characters, for whom no apologies, excuses or moral judgements are made. As the narrative progresses, I was privileged to see them both unalterably changed by experience and at the same time relentlessly unchanging and clinging ever more rigidly to familiar coping patterns. There is no great epiphany or personal growth, and no particularly happy ending brought about through enhanced relationships. The present is both the known and the unknown, the characters the changing and the unchanging, and there is a curious inevitability to the fascinating whole.

It seems to me to be a very "real" adventure - a dramatic life experience that causes a ripple and changes the water, without being able to change the flow of the river. This book has certainly earned a place on my bookshelf and will continue to move through my mind, becoming part of the me that encounters each new "now". ( )
  mandochild | Apr 25, 2010 |
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Book description
Una and her younger sister Hal have been abruptly summoned to live in New Delhi by their diplomat father Sir Edward Gwithiam. From the first meeting with their new tutor and companion, the beautiful Eurasian Alix Lamont, Una senses a hidden motive to their presence. But through the pain of the months to come, the poetry and logic of India do not leave Una untouched. And it begins with the feather, a promise of something genuine and precious ...In "The Peacock Spring", Rumer Godden evokes the magic of an India she knows so well - and all the bitter sweetness of loyalty and love. And in the preface she explains how this perennially popular novel came to be written. 'One of the finest English novelists'. - "Orville Prescott".
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A novel about two English school girls, who are summoned from England to New Delhi by their diplomat father. Una, the older sister, meets a young man, and a secret love develops.

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