Taking the cure with Rumer.

Is it unnecessary and even unprofitable to analyze my reading habits? Why not just read what I like? Because I don’t seem to know what I like, or what I have the strength for. In times of stress, such as in my current bereavement and during my husband’s illness before that, the intellect still jumps at the chance to read books of theology or philosophy, so I have gone on acquiring stacks of them… only to find that my mind will not be engaged enough to get through the first chapter.

Or, I try a “good novel,” hoping to be pulled into the story and have some vicarious excitement. Aha – that is the problem, as I realized yesterday, sick and sitting by the fire with a quiet book. I need rest, not excitement. I need, as I wrote a few years ago about another novel, to embark on a reading journey “as one takes a needed vacation or The Cure at a sanatorium.”

Rumer Godden is a writer whose presence on the pages of her fiction or non-fiction is always strangely comforting and nourishing to me. I suppose my recent acceptance of weakness led me to take her China Court off the shelf, after passing over it for years. Lately it seems that I have almost daily been wandering among the four rooms that house parts of my library, as I look for the Right Book. As I held this one in my lap I mused about why it is that.

When you need to heal and build strength, where do you like to be? Me, I like to be either alone in an orderly and comfortable place, or with kind and gentle, competent people who take care of the place and might even cook for me. If there is a garden attached, and lovers of trees and flowers who might 27a16-p101064228129fruitstandgardenstroll its paths with me, all the better. I could sojourn in this place indefinitely, until I felt in my bones the renewed energy that would prompt me to go home and dig in my own garden or clean house.

Being in Rumer Godden’s books is like that. And China Court is especially so, because it is about a well-appointed house and the generations who have lived and worked and died there, servants making up beds with fresh, age-softened linens and a grandmother who secretly hand-picks little bouquets for her favorite people to find on their nightstands. It has the drama of stories going back a hundred years, if you want that, but it is mostly about being there with real humans, many of them quite sympathetic, and of course none of them requiring anything of me.

I haven’t read too far yet  🙂 but I was charmed by this one scene and wanted to share it:

In the big house in Cornwall the large Quin Family gathers downstairs while breakfast is being cooked in the kitchen nearby. As the father Eustace reads from the Bible and prayer book… victorian-range

The smell of bacon drifts across the Lord’s Prayer — always for Eliza, the two are mingled, though she does not, at that age, get any of the bacon — and as the smell rises Eustace increases his pace….breakfast is waiting; the children, upstairs, have porridge and milk, white bread and the second best butter; but for Eustace and Adza the morning-room table is laid with porridge in blue and white plates, cream, brown bread, muffins, honey and rolls, while the bacon keeps in a silver dish over a flame, with another dish of kidneys or sausages or sometimes kedgeree.

-from China Court by Rumer Godden

Do you wonder what kedgeree is? I had never heard of it, but when I read on this page Kedgeree and saw the picture, it made me want to try making some myself. Sounds tasty!

Last week I was frying something using bacon fat left over from our Christmas feasting, and the smell of it warming in the pan brought back happy memories of my father and his mountain cabin, my grandma’s kitchen… it was curious how nourished I felt, before I had taken a bite.

I enjoyed reading about this Victorian Era breakfast and the well-supplied kitchen and staff that produced it. I sipped my tea before the fire, glad that I long ago graduated from the Porridge Upstairs stage of life, because I do like a little meat with my breakfast, though I haven’t tried kidneys yet. Winter days are cozy when taken with Rumer Godden, some bacon — and of course, prayer!

23 thoughts on “Taking the cure with Rumer.

  1. I think any day spent with Rumer is a great day. I loved reading your paragraph. I have been reading Elisabeth Goudge for the same reason. I just don’t have the energy I find for exciting books.

    I loved reading your thoughts.

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  2. I used to love to eat kidneys. Usually added to a stew. I have not seen them in stores for many years. I just don’t desire meat and offal like I used to. It doesn’t even taste the same to me. Is it my tastes changing or the food?

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  3. My cure is usually Elizabeth Goudge, but you can’t go wrong with Rumer Godden either! China Court is a good choice. I haven’t read it in a very long time but there are still one or two “pictures” in my memory from the story.

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  4. Thanks for your post. I know you’d love being able to come up to our place! I also like and now schedule at 4:00 p.m. an hour alone to read and rest. It is something I really look forward to…and your book recommendations are some of my favorite. Lanier’s Books too ..from her blog.

    Leslie

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  5. China Court is a charming book and one particular subplot is a favorite of mine…I wonder if you will guess that when you read it. It can take years to recover from losing a loved one and I am still perhaps doing so. But perhaps the truth is that one is never the same person again. Perhaps we are always in the process of a kind of creation. (Can you guess that it is rather far past the middle of the night and insomnia is making me ramble?) Have you read In This House of Brede? Perhaps 30 years ago I read and reread it until I could almost never read it again….Be well, dear friend.

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    1. In This House of Brede was the first Godden book I read, and it was completely captivating. I’m sure I could do with at least a second reading 🙂 From there I went on to read some memoirs, and then it was years before I found her to be good medicine when my husband was first ill.

      I appreciate your wise ramblings – if it is sleeplessness that prompts them, insomnia isn’t all bad, for me!

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  6. My mother gave all of her daughters China Court years ago. I love Rumer Godden’s writing and always know I have found a kindred spirit when I read her. Thank you for this reminder!

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  7. Oh my, this sounds like an author I would love to start reading, and Elizabeth Goudge as well, mentioned by a commenter.

    Your thoughts here ~ “When you need to heal and build strength, where do you like to be? Me, I like to be either alone in an orderly and comfortable place, or with kind and gentle, competent people who take care of the place and might even cook for me. If there is a garden attached, and lovers of trees and flowers who might stroll its paths with me, all the better. I could sojourn in this place indefinitely, until I felt in my bones the renewed energy that would prompt me to go home and dig in my own garden or clean house.” ~ feel like my own thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

    Have a lovely day dear Gretchen ~ FlowerLady

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  8. For a bit of literary kedgeree, there’s Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children) or the good Rudyard Kipling (“The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House”). I suppose both might be a little more excitement than you crave just now, but it’s still interesting to remember the references.

    I’ve not heard of Rumer Godden. I did look at her non-fiction books, and was tickled to see that one, autobiographical, was titled “The House With Four Rooms.” Perhaps she kept her library in them? 🙂

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    1. Does Rushdie mention kedgeree? Or maybe you are referring to cultural borrowings and “fusions.” Midnight’s Children was one of those books that I started and didn’t finish in 2016. 🙂 I have A House With Four Rooms on my shelf but evidently never finished reading it. Now I’d have to start over… but it would be a pleasure! In 2014 when my husband was ill I read many Godden books, especially the ones she wrote for children. Even though there is excitement and drama in them, you get the feeling that everything will turn out all right in the end, even the naughty children.

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  9. I had to smile when I read that you were wandering through the four rooms that house your library because it reminds me of this quote from RG.

    “There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.”

    I, too, had China Court on my shelves for a long time before I read it, and since RG so often writes about the East, I just assumed it was about China. I was really surprised when I started reading it.

    That passage is fairly reminiscent of Elizabeth Goudge. It would fit right into one of her books.

    AMDG

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    1. Janet, You are right about the resemblance to Goudge – but I didn’t notice that until this book. I’m pretty sure Godden’s A House With Four Rooms is one of those books I started reading once. I just checked and yes, I own it; now I’ve put it next to her other memoirs and hope it will get on the Completed list in the future. Thank you for the quote with its perspective on wholeness… very interesting.

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  10. i love both rumer godden and elizabeth goudge. based on your recommendations, i’ve ordered ‘china court’ which i’ve never read and also the book of garden meditations from your previous post. i shall be watching my mailbox with great anticipation!

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  11. What a lovely, comforting mélange you have drawn together, Gretchen! I discovered Rumer a few years back &, like you, find her writing pleasant, nostalgic and just right for ‘nesting days’.

    The kedgeree looks fantastic: wait til you try it in the land of its origins! In Japan we have a similar rice-based comfort food, perfect for dark days, called ‘okayu’. At the right time I’ve often thought of it as the ultimate soul fortification!

    Wishing you well.

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  12. I had a recipe for kedgeree in my recipe folder some years back, but never got around to making it. I can’t even remember what it involved, lol. I have In This House of Brede on my shelves. Now you make me want to read it! Thanks for a great post!

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  13. I’ve heard of Rumer Godden, but never read anything of hers — yet. This very nice reflection encourages me to go to the library tomorrow. I like hearing about your books, read and unread, started and finished. I wish I could read faster, but I too believe in “some bacon — and of course, prayer!” So I take my time on all three.

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  14. My go-to for comfort is Jan Karon. And by the way, we would love to let you rest here and cook for you and let you walk in the garden! Or gaze at it from a window!

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