Godden, Rumer

Margaret Rumer Godden was born on 10th December 1907 in Sussex, but spent most of her childhood moving between India and boarding school back in the UK. Her father was a shipping company executive, who worked for the Brahmaputra Steam Navigation Company. She trained as a dance teacher and returned to Calcutta in 1925 to teach dance to English and Indian children. She and her sister, Nancy, ran the school for over twenty years.

She was married in 1934 to a stock broker, Laurence Sinclair Foster, when she discovered she was pregnant. The baby died shortly after birth, but they went on to have two more daughters, Jane and Paula. By all accounts it was an unhappy marriage, and in 1941 he had left to join the army. Godden retreated to Kashmir with her daughters to write, until a cook attempted to poison them. In 1945 she returned to England with the girls so she could focus on her writing. She remarried James Haynes Dixon, a civil servant, in 1949.

In the early 1950’s she became interested in religion, officially converting to Catholicism in 1968. “I like the way everything is clear and concise,” she said about her new religion. “You’ll always be forgiven but you must know the rules.

She was awarded an OBE in 1993.

She died on the 8th November 1998.

Books for adults

When one came to know them it was surprising how childish grown people could be.



  • 1943 Rungli-Rungliot – republished in 1961 as Thus Far and No Further
  • 1945 Bengal Journey: A story of the part played by women in the province, 1939–1945
  • 1955 Hans Christian Andersen (biography)
  • 1966 Two Under the Indian Sun (childhood memories – written with Jon Godden)
  • 1968 Mrs. Manders’ Cook Book
  • 1971 The Tale of the Tales: Beatrix Potter Ballet
  • 1972 Shiva’s Pigeons (written with Jon Godden)
  • 1977 The Butterfly Lions
  • 1980 Gulbadan: Portrait of a Rose Princess At the Mughal Court
  • 1987 A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (autobiography) [review by Leaves & Pages]
  • 1989 A House with Four Rooms (autobiography) [review by Leaves & Pages]
  • Summer Diary: The Herbogowan (undated memoir)

Children’s books

There are several things children will not put up with in a book. You have to have a proper beginning and an end; you cannot have flashbacks. Then you can’t have a lot of description: keep it to a minimum. And you must be very careful with words. I find I use fewer, and they have to fit the case exactly and be chosen with extreme care.

  • 1947 The Doll’s House [review by Buried in Print]
  • 1951 The Mousewife [review by Katrina @Pining For the West]
  • 1952 Mouse House
  • 1954 Impunity Jane: The Story of a Pocket Doll
  • 1956 The Fairy Doll
  • 1958 The Story of Holly and Ivy [review by Leaves & Pages]
  • 1960 Candy Floss
  • 1961 Saint Jerome and the Lion 
  • 1961 Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
  • 1963 Little Plum, the sequel to Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
  • 1964 Home is the Sailor
  • 1967 The Kitchen Madonna
  • 1969 Operation Sippacik
  • 1972 The Diddakoi (also published as Gypsy Girl) [review by Leaves & Pages]
  • 1972 The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle
  • 1975 Mr. McFadden’s Hallowe’en
  • 1977 The Rocking Horse Secret
  • 1978 A Kindle of Kittens
  • 1981 The Dragon of Og
  • 1983 Four Dolls
  • 1983 The Valiant Chatti-Maker
  • 1984 Mouse Time: Two Stories
  • 1990 Fu-Dog
  • 1992 Great Grandfather’s House
  • 1992 Listen to the Nightingale
  • 1996 The Little Chair
  • 1996 Premlata and the Festival of Lights


  • 1949 In Noah’s Ark
  • 1963 Prayer’s from the Ark (written by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, translated by Godden)
  • 1965 The Creatures’ Choir (written by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, translated by Godden)
  • 1968 A Letter to the World (written with Emily Dickinson)
  • 1996 Cockcrow to Starlight: A Day Full of Poetry (anthology for children)
  • 1996 A Pocket Book of Spiritual Poems

There is a Rumer Godden Literary Trust if you would like to read up on any of her books or keep up with their latest news. Rosie Thomas wrote a glowing review in The Guardian back in 2013 about the joy of rereading Godden as an adult. And last year, Hugh Schofield of the BBC went in search of the truth behind The Greengage Summer.

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