Book Delivers Trip to the Past

I’m especially drawn to stories published in my mother’s heyday, the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.  Reading them offers a real connection to her generation. An author she and her sisters adored was Rumer Godden. It took some effort getting a library copy of Godden’s 1945 tale, Take Three Tenses:  A Fugue in Time, but it was worth it. I even made a few librarian friends in the process.

Take Three Tenses: A Fugue in Time by Rumer Godden, 1945
Take Three Tenses: A Fugue in Time by Rumer Godden, 1945

Post format:  Blast from the Past

Every time I read a Godden book, I wonder why she’s not famous.  This English author lived from 1907 to 1998 and wrote more than 60 books for adults and children.  Nine of them were made into films, including Take Three Tenses.  It was called Enchantment and starred David Niven.

Rumer Godden
Author Rumer Godden

Godden wrote about heavy subjects like sin, religion, war, love, even race relations.  (She lived in India for a time.) One of my favorite books is her page-turning tale Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy about a prostitute and murderess who becomes a nun.  The book’s premise is based on a religious community in France that includes former female prisoners.

The premise of Take Three Tenses is equally unique.  The first character introduced isn’t even animate, it’s a house.  Generations of one family have lived in the house. It has seen their celebrations, their tragedies and a doomed love affair.  The 1945 novel opens in the present…World War II London.  But Godden switches to the past and the future as well, hence the title regarding tenses.  I’ve never read a book that jumped around in time so often and so deftly.  Godden highlights the everyday happenings of the family as much as she does the momentous.  Her writing is so good, you don’t care what she’s describing.  In this passage, Lark, a young girl, ponders falling in love for the first time:

“Help me to keep my face, and my head.  (Love) comes to everyone.  I must remember that. It is a common experience…It is the commonest thing on earth.  And it doesn’t always make you happy.”

Here I am happily clutching a copy of the book with Brenda Davis, the nice librarian who helped me get it.
Here I am happily holding the book at  Juliette Hampton Morgan Memorial Library.  I’m with Brenda Davis, the helpful reference librarian who found me a copy.
Here is Jessica Black, inter-library loan librarian who sent me a copy from Dupont Library.
Jessica Black, the inter-library loan specialist at DuPont-Ball Library, sent the book my way.

BONUS BIT: This book wasn’t easy to find.  My city’s online catalog showed a copy at the downtown branch. But it wasn’t on the shelf when I got there.  Reference librarian Brenda Davis did some digging and discovered the book was marked lost in 1997.  She saw my disappointment and offered a solution:  an inter-library loan.  She sent out a call to other libraries requesting a copy.  Stetson University’s DuPont-Ball Library graciously sent theirs.  Jessica Black is the inter-library loan specialist there.  Thanks Brenda and Jessica!

8 thoughts on “Book Delivers Trip to the Past

  • September 26, 2016 at 10:03 pm
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    Godden sounds like an interesting writer. It’s so great to see how helpful people were in locating this book for you.

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    • September 27, 2016 at 1:49 pm
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      Yes, there are some nice people in this world, especially in libraries!

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  • September 28, 2016 at 6:13 am
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    I loved this book, and I’m so glad that the library found a copy to you. I read a lot of books from my mother’s and my grandmother’s eras, but I came to Rumer Godden’s books through her lovely books for children

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    • September 28, 2016 at 11:04 am
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      Thanks Jane. It’s nice to hear from another Godden fan. If you get a chance, I’d love a few reccomendations for her children’s books. I’m not that familiar with those.

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  • September 28, 2016 at 4:20 pm
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    I have always loved Godden’s An Episode of Sparrow and I recently read China Court. I have read a few others but I know I have a lot of her books left. I will have to look for a copy of the one you recommend. My daughter just read Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.

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    • September 29, 2016 at 4:55 pm
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      I’m so glad you wrote. I also loved An Episode of Sparrows. I just looked up Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, and it sounds wonderful. I might have to get a copy.

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    • December 13, 2016 at 7:54 pm
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      Thanks for the link. I checked out her article and agree that Godden’s books can be as spiritual as meditations by clergy, maybe more so in some cases.

      Reply

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