Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden

Two Under the Indian Sun cover

Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden was first published in 1966. It was a surprise to discover that Jon Godden is actually a girl. The Godden sisters had originally been living in colonial India with their parents, the father was working for a shipping company. The prologue says that the book isn’t so much an autobiography as an evocation of a time that is gone.The girls had been living in India when they were very young but had been shipped back to England for their education. When World War 1 broke out it was decided they would be better off being back in India, to avoid the zeppelins in London.

Jon and Rumer were thrilled to bits to get back to India as being farmed out to aunts in England had been an unhappy experience for them. The part of India they lived in is now part of Bangladesh and at that time the community was a very mixed one with a multitude of religions and castes. The girls were involved in all the religious celebrations but as their mother was terrified that they would get ill from contaminated food they never got to try Indian food, that must have been terrible, being able to smell it but not eat it. In fact they really led a very narrow life, not being able to play with many other children, the Anglo-Indian children next-door neighbours were off limits to them, except on Christmas Day when they were allowed to speak to them and of course as far as the Indians were concerned the Godden children were untouchables. There were two younger sisters by the time Jon and Rumer got back to India.

Life in India was very comfortable for them though, they had a far higher standard of living than they would have had back in England. In fact when they had to go back to England they had to travel third class on trains, whereas in India it had been first class travel for them.

This is a good read and as I had no idea that Jon Godden had also been a writer I’ll now have to track down some of her books. India was obviously a huge influence on the sisters, so I suspect that all of the books will have an Indian setting.

Have any of you read anything by Jon Godden?

Rumer Godden/Dutch

This must be the most books I have ever read in any year, according to Goodreads I’ve read 109 so far and I still have some updating to do there. There are also some books which I don’t bother to put on Goodreads, I’m sure you’re the same, I tend not to bother with cookery books or craft/lifestyle/design books, even though I’ve read them cover to cover.

During the awful weather we had over the last three weeks or so I did almost nothing but read. Burying my head in books seemed like the best way to avoid the inevitable depression of days and days of endless rain. I just took myself off into different and more interesting worlds, even although the sky outside was so dark I needed a lamp on during the day to be able to read anything at all.

Every other activity came to a standstill, I must admit that it’s often sheer laziness which leads to me reaching for a book, instead of doing something a bit more active and productive, such as sewing machine wrangling. My fabric stash keeps multiplying but it’s not being converted into anything, it’s just piling up, in much the same way as my unread book piles do I suppose.

One of the things which I swore to myself that I would do this year was attempt to learn Dutch. Some of my extended family members are Dutch – or half Dutch and when we went to the Netherlands to visit them last year it felt shameful that I couldn’t say anything to anyone in shops – not even please and thank you. Mind you everyone there seems to speak English. The next visit I was going to be better prepared, but my Futurelearn Dutch course came at a time when I was madly busy doing other crucial stuff. It was only a three week course but I only managed the first week, and although I did well with it I just never got around to the other two weeks. Obviously it was just a wee bit of a taster course, but I had bitten off more than I could chew.

The other thing I thought I would do to help me learn Dutch was to read a book, one page in English then the same page in Dutch. I thought it would be good for learning lots of vocabulary. Well it would have been if I could have got further than page one! Whilst in the Netherlands I spotted a Rumer Godden book in a charity shop, I do love charity/thrift shops, you never know what you might find. I knew that I had a copy of the same book in English back home, The Greengage Summer, I bought it to read them in tandem.

Rumer Godden Books

So I’m starting again on page one, with my Dutch/English dictionary at hand – and yes that was another charity shop purchase, and a jotter to note down the vocabulary. I’m determined to get past page one this time.

I’m also going to be reading another charity shop purchase – Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden. It’s an account of the siblings’ experiences being brought up in India. The preface begins: This is not an autobiography as much as an evocation of a time that is gone, a few years that will always be timeless for us; an evocation that is as truthful as memory can ever be. It should be interesting I think and I bet I know which book I’ll finish first!