The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden

The Battle of the Villa Fiorita cover

The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden was first published in 1963 and I have to admit that although I really enjoyed this book it does seem very dated now. In fact I suspect that the book seems quite unbelievable to younger readers.

The story begins with two children who have made their way to Italy on their own. Their parents are newly divorced and the father who is a Queen’s Messenger – some sort of diplomat I think – has got custody of the three children who are aged between almost 12 and 16. The 16 year old girl is off on holiday in France when her younger siblings decide to track their mother down to take her back to the family home and their father, they just can’t accept that she won’t be living with them any more.

The mother (Fanny) was quite an ordinary woman, not the sort to wear make-up, perfume or fancy clothes and she was seen by her so-called friends in the village as rather drab and uninteresting. When some film-makers appear in the village to make a film it’s Fanny that the director is drawn to and given that Fanny’s children are away at boarding school and her husband is often away from home for work purposes, it’s inevitable that she’s very flattered by his attention, which of course leads to the divorce and the children’s attempts to get her back.

It’s a piece of social history now as the mother almost always gets custody of the children in divorce cases but back in the 1960s a woman who chose to leave her husband for her lover was deemed to be an unfit person to bring up children – how times have changed!

Quite a few women around the internet seem to be quite angry about this book probably because they just can’t get their heads around the fact that the mother doesn’t get custody, but she did abandon them and her unobjectionable husband for a bloke she hardly knew.

This is a good read but not my favourite by Rumer Godden.

4 thoughts on “The Battle of the Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden

    • tracybham,
      It’s amazing how attitudes have changed since the book was written, for the better I suppose, if you were stuck in an unhappy marriage. The book is well written though.

  1. Hi Katrina,
    I’m very interested that you said the novel was rather dated but you “really enjoyed” it. I notice this dichotomy in myself at times. I find I note to others that a book is dated, just so they’ll be cautioned, but often this fact does not interfere with my enjoyment as long as the book is very well-written.
    So, this one is not your favorite novel by Rumer. Now I need to ask, which is (are) your favorites? I so want to read her books, but borrowing them from the library is difficult. So many have been “discarded.”
    I think I remember your saying that you liked In This House of Brede.
    Best wishes,

    • Judith,
      I remember that I really did enjoy In This House of Brede, but it was around 1975 when I read it, so I have no idea what I would think of it now. I don’t even have a copy of it but if I get one I will give it a re-read.

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