The Mousewife by Rumer Godden

The Mousewife cover

The Mousewife by Rumer Godden was one of the books I got for Christmas, it was first published in 1951 but my copy was published in 1958. It’s such a cute wee book with just 39 pages and lots of illustrations which are by William Pene du Bois. This is ostensibly a book for children but in reality it will probably be appreciated more by adults, or maybe I should say by women.

A mouse couple live in an old house belonging to a spinster. They’re house mice and never venture beyond the walls, they think that the house is the whole world, but when the mousewife catches sight of the garden and woodland through a window she’s entranced by what she can see. The seasons come and go and she sees all the flowers and then the snow, but all her husband thinks about is cheese.

She’s a good mousewife, taking care of her husband when he over-indulges on currants and wrapping him up with tufts of carpet wool behind the fender. By this time she has a family to look after too and she’s the breadwinner so to speak and she has no time for thinking. But a boy brings the spinster homeowner a dove in a cage and the dove is pining for the great outdoors, it has lost the will to live, the peas which the dove is given for food are just what the mousewife needs to feed her growing brood and she makes friends with the dove.

This is a lovely tale with the dove and the mouse helping each other. The dove tells the mousewife about the hills, corn, stars and clouds.

It has been given to few mice to see the stars: so rare is it that the mousewife had not even heard of them, and when she saw them shining she thought at first they must be new brass buttons. Then she saw they were very far off, farther than the garden or the wood, beyond the farthest trees. “But not too far for me to see,” she said. She knew now that they were not buttons but something far and big and strange. “But not so strange to me,” she said, “for I have seen them, and I have seen them for myself,” said the mousewife.

Ladies or mousewives – please beware of neglecting your husband, as if you don’t give them your full attention, they might just bite your ear! You can see some of the illustrations here.

12 thoughts on “The Mousewife by Rumer Godden

  1. I had no idea that Rumer Goddin had written books for children. The illustrations from your book are beautiful! I will definitely be looking for some of her children’s books.
    I am halfway through my first book by her, In This House of Brede. My daughter warned me that it starts pretty slow, and I have found that to be the case. But, it’s getting better and keeping my interest now. I have only heard good things about Goddin’s books, so I want to read some other titles. Do you tend to like her books? Just wondering.

    • Paula,
      I read In This House of Brede way back in the 1970s and it’s her longest book by far I’m sure. I remember I enjoyed it but I began with a shorter one, possibly China Court. Quite a few of her books were made into films and some have India as a setting as she lived there on and off. I’ve liked all of them, you should try some more after In This House of Brede. Considering I’m not a fan of religion or nuns I was surprised that I enjoyed it.

  2. I first discovered Rumer Godden as a child when I read An Episode of Sparrows and she has been a favorite author ever since, I know I am in good hands each time I start a book by her! I think it a pity she isn’t better known or appreciated.

    • Christine,
      You got to her far earlier than I did and I’ve just realised that I bought a copy of Episode of Sparrows way back in 2015 and I haven’t read it yet. I’ll get to it very soon. Thanks for reminding me. I think she was very well known in the past, with some of her books being made into films, I suppose she has always been appreciated by discerning readers!

  3. This sounds very sweet! And the illustrations are lovely. I have never read Rumer Godden, but I have always loved the film “The Battle of the Villa Fiorita” based on one of her novels (mostly because I love Rossano Brazzi) and I have wanted to read the book to see if it matches the film. I even own a vintage copy yet haven’t opened it.. One day!

    • Anbolyn,
      I haven’t seen the film, but now feel that I must. I’ve read the book a couple of times though, with about 30 years in between each read. You should put your feet up with a cup of tea and watch that film!

  4. I hope she bit him back! I think I’d heard before that Rumer Godden wrote for children, but this is the first time I’ve seen one of them reviewed – it sounds lovely!

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