I received an Amazon gift card for Epiphany and used it to buy a whole lot of Rumer Godden books. So far I’ve read The Peacock Spring, A Candle for St. Jude, and Thursday’s Children.
I liked the first one quite a bit, a haunting story that I can’t quite write about because I’m still thinking about it. The second had moments I really liked, but it felt choppy and unfinished, like the rough draft of a novel that couldn’t quite find it’s focus. The last might take its place among my favorites.
Thursday’s Children is about a brother and sister, Doone and Crystal Penny, who are both gifted dancers. Crystal is the beloved only daughter of a mother who used to be a dancer and who wants her daughter to have the chances she never had. Her mother’s lowbrow taste and pushy need to control everything almost ruin Crystal for dance. She’s terribly spoiled and is a very unpleasant, disagreeable person. And yet, somehow you can’t quite hate her because you understand too well where she’s coming from. Doone, is the unwanted and barely loved youngest child. Neglected as a baby, he was raised more by the shop assistant who lived in the storeroom of the parents’ greengrocer’s shop than by his own mother. Beppo, the assistant, used to be a clown and teaches Doone tumbling and trapeze and showers him with the love and kindness his parents are unable to give him. Then Beppo is sent away and Doone is left on his own until he begins to accompany Crystal to her dance classes and falls in love with music and ballet and begins to discover his own talents.
Mrs Penny wants nothing to do with Doone’s talent, but he manages to find teachers who believe in him and nurture his talent. But over and over again there are clashes between his need to dance and Crystal’s need to have the spotlight. The story is poignant and heartbreaking at times, but ultimately hopeful.
Godden is at her best when writing about outsiders, especially children who are unwanted or neglected. She trained as a dance teacher in England and with her sister ran a dance school in Calcutta for twenty years so she knows the dance world from the inside and writes about it with passion. I really didn’t expect much of this novel and was surprised and delighted by how much I enjoyed it.
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