The River is a coming of age story set in India, where Godden herself grew up. The heroine, Harriet, is the second daughter of an English family and a budding poet. Born in India, she’s never known any other world. Harriet encounters death and birth and with this new awareness begins the journey toward adulthood. Lush scenery and beautiful language, many flavors of life in India.
One of my favorite scenes was when Mother brings the girls into her room to have a talk about growing older. I love the way it is so beautifully presented. (The scene gracefully skips over the part where Mother presumably goes into the actual physical details.)
“We had better begin from the beginning. . . . You know it is the women who bear the babies, carry them in their bodies—as I am doing.”
“Yes Mother,” said Harriet, and she and Bea both averted their eyes from Mother.”
“We—women have to make our bodies fit for that,” said Mother. “Like a temple.”
“A temple?” asked Harriet surprised.
“Yes,” said Mother. But still it did not seem quite certain, the idea did not quite fit.
“Because you see, Harriet, the bearing of children, for the man you love, and who loves you, is very precious and sanctified work.”
“Do you love Father?” asked Harriet immediately.
“Yes,” said Mother, “I am glad to say that I do.”
At that small statement, typical of her mother, the conversation became suddenly and intimately true. Harriet felt a surge of love for her.
Very Catholic, though I’m not sure if Godden was Catholic yet at the time she wrote it.