Rumer Godden (Margaret Rumer Godden)
BiographyEastbourne, Essex, England, UK
Rumer Godden was brought up in India at the turn of the century. Her father worked for the Bengal Steamship Company and the family travelled around the India of The British Raj quite a bit. Rumer was a precocious child and wrote her auto-biography when she was only 6! As she grew up she became fascinated by the Indian peoples and the Hindu religion, especially their frank and open attitudes to sexuality in stark contrast to the British attitude prevalent at the time. She met Laurence Foster in the famous Tollygunge club in Calcutta. Read more... they were married in Calcutta Cathedral. She never really loved him though and was almost relieved when their baby died after just 4 days. Foster was a keen sportsman and was soon travelling all over India playing golf and polo, leaving Rumer to her own devices. She opened a dancing school in Calcutta but, when she admitted Eurasian girls, the school was assumed to be a front for a brothel and she was ostracised by 'polite British society'. This left her free to explore India, the old palace and temples and get to know the people. One of her first books "The Lady and The Unicorn" (first published in 1938) was about the maltreatment of the Eurasians who looked down upon by both the British & the Indians. Her next book "'Black Narcissus'" was first published in 1939 and has never been out of print since. This told the story of some of the British attempts (and failures) to integrate into and understand the Indian way of life and culture. It also presages the end of the British 'occupation' of India. Foster lost all his money on the stock exchange and left her to join the Army. Rumer went with her daughter Jane to Kashmir. On a trek in the hills, she miscarried. (She didn't even know she was pregnant). She collapsed, haemorrhaging severely and was only saved by the quick actions of her Kashmiri guide. She divorced Foster in 1942 and shortly afterwards collapsed from the combined effects of typhoid and overwork. While she convalesced in a mountain village she was caught up in the beginnings of the pre-independence riots. The final straw was when one of her servants tried to poison her and her children so she abandoned most of her belongings and fled back to England. When she arrived, on a troop ship, she weighed just 6 stone (84 pounds). She had left behind most of her possessions but she had with her the manuscript of "'The River'".