Breakfast With The Nikolides by Rumer Godden

Breakfast With The Nikolides

Breakfast With The Nikolides by Rumer Godden was first published in 1942 and it’s one of her several books with an Indian setting, a small agricultural town in East Bengal to be precise. Charles Pool is a farmer there and his estranged wife Louise and two daughters are just about to arrive from France as Hitler’s occupation was imminent. As soon as she gets to India Louise wishes she hadn’t panicked, but really she had no alternative place to go. Charles is a stranger to them all, not exactly welcoming and Louise is appalled by the filth and disease everywhere. It’s not a great place for someone as highly strung as she is to settle.

Like most of Godden’s India books this one seems obviously autobiographical with the young eleven year old Emily modelled on Rumer I’m sure. Emily has a terrible relationship with her mother, mainly because it’s so obvious that Louise dislikes Emily, she never has a good word to say for her and poor Emily is constantly being described as a liar generally abused by her mother. The feeling is mutual though as Emily can see through her mother’s actions. Barbara (Binnie) is the charming younger child, cheerful and light-hearted, but Charles can appreciate Emily.

The Pools put on a front for the sake of society but it’s obvious to everyone that it’s a fraught relationship, not helped by the mother being more immature than the children. She’s suspicious of all Indians too and always thinks the worst of them. Emily even disapproves of the glamorous Nikolides family.

There is some lovely descriptive writing in this book and some blurb on the back from the Observer says: Rumer Godden is a master storyteller, a genius at conveying a sense of place.

I enjoyed it anyway.

3 thoughts on “Breakfast With The Nikolides by Rumer Godden

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Black Narcissus a while ago and have been meaning to read more of her work ever since. One day…! This one sounds interesting but rather different in tone? Does it have the same psychological drama elements?

    • FictionFan,
      I read Black Narcissus back in the year dot, I think I saw the film too but most of the details are gone from my mind! I wouldn’t say this was particularly psychological. It feels to me like the author is getting back at her mother for perceived unfairness in her upbringing as she very much favoured her younger sister. From my observations of various families though – being the favourite often turns out to be a disadvantage later in life. I remember I enjoyed reading In This House of Brede back in the 1970s, another one set in a convent.

  2. I’m reading The Greengage Summer at the moment. Rumer Godden’s writing is so strong, in particular she seems to be able to write the younger characters so well. I’ve read The River which is also set in India and was enthralled by it. Breakfast with Nikolides is sitting on my shelves. I’m looking forward to it.

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