14 thoughts on “Rumer Godden, The Greengage Summer

  1. I used to love Godden’s work, although it is a long time since I read any. You might like to try Peacock Spring which is set in India and is another novel which explores the developing understanding of a teenager left very much to her own devices.


  2. By an odd coincidence I re-read my battered Pan copy of this (with its highly misleading cover showing a sultry 25 year-old female) only a fortnight ago and wondered if any bright publisher had thought to reissue it as it has such a modern sensibility. I agree about how clever and well organised it is in contradistinction to the chaos that has overtaken the children’s lives. They are surrounded by potentially dangerous and hostile people – French logic and mercenariness are beautifully shown. And choosing Cecil to narrate works very well because Joss, the eldest, can be notionally in charge, cool and quite hard whereas Cecil can be more naive and open to experience: process is at least as important as outcome. “The French understand living” says Eliot and Cecil longs to be French, whereas Joss would never want to be. Godden is very good on landscape and the stifling heat as well. I was alarmed to see that Kenneth More played Eliot in that film: a grand piece of miscasting.
    I know I read An Episode of Sparrows and Kingfishers Catch Fire – and can’t remember a thing about them.


    1. Seems as though twas written to propagandize acceptance of immorality as the status quo – particularly the “innocence ” of promiscuity among children ,with no regard for the self-damage such poor decisions, however uninformed or misinformed they be.


  3. One of my favourite Rumer Godden novels, the atmosphere with the ever present potential danger is just perfect. Godden seems to understand children and teenagers perfectly and writes about them very astutely.


  4. I loved this book too, and do I remember correctly when I think she says she based it on something like an incident from her own childhood but when she was just a little bit older than Cecil? I’m not at home, so can’t check, but do remember thinking all the children felt just a shade to young for their roles. All read true, but would have been more so if they’d been just a year further along. Their quite extreme youth gives them a particular vulnerability and certainly ups the tension for the reader, but Joss and Willmouse especially felt like they should be a year older to me.


    1. That’s interesting: Will mouse certainly ought to have been around Hester’s age, about 10, to fit what he does and says. But Joss at 16 (going on seventeen) is about right as the teenage girl discovering her power over men for the first time.


  5. I am so glad that I stumbled on your blog after doing a Google search for Helene Hanff, the author of “84, Charing Cross Road. ” “Greengage Summer” was another one of my favorites from my early adulthood. I read it after seeing “Loss of Innocence,” which I remember more vividly than films I saw a year ago, even though I have not seen it since the 1970s. I have been looking for the film for decades. Has anyone ever found it on DVD? I thought Susannah York was exquisite as Joss. I have become a great fan of the Backlisted podcast and would like to recommend that Miller and Mitchinson feature this novel or any novel by Rumer Godden.


  6. The film is available on DVD from Amazon, and I have a copy. I first saw it in the cinema when it came out, and have never forgotten it. An observation about the casting of Kenneth More: I believe he is perfect for the role of Eliot in the film, who is a much less ruthless character than the Eliot in the book. Rumer Godden deserves to be more widely known: I have read twenty-four of her books to date and although I have my favourites, there isn’t really a dud amongst any of them.


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