A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep by Rumer Godden (1987)

A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep by Rumer Godden

Rumer Godden (1907 – 1998) was a British-born author who spent much of her childhood in India. She lived a multifaceted  life and wrote prolifically.

A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (1987), which came out the year she turned eighty, was the first of a two-part memoir, followed by A House With Four Rooms (1989). Her best-known novels, including Black Narcissus and In This House of Brede explore the religious life of nuns; many of her other novels, including The River, are set in India.

Once, when Godden was a child, the Arabian pony she was riding bolted and threw her. The injuries she sustained included a concussion. But her father compelled her to get back on the horse as soon as she was able to, despite her fear. He told her: ”If you are frightened of anything, you must do it.” And that was exactly how she lived her life.


A beloved writer’s autobiography

From the 1987 Beech Tree Books / William Morrow edition: The first volume of this beloved writer’s autobiography is endowed with all the joy, elegance, honesty, courage, and humanity that distinguish Rumer Godden as a novelist.

Spanning the years 1907 – 1946, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep tells the story of her beguiling childhood in India, her marriage to a charming but weak stockbroker, her life bringing up two children alone and in poverty after his abandonment, and periods of great distress punctuated by the publication and success of her early novels.

It illuminates Rumer Godden’s understanding of the darker side of life, of tragedy, loss, suffering, and long endurance bravely borne.

A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep is an extraordinary story that give context to this author’s novels, enlarging and enhancing them while shedding light on the moments and events in her life that inspired them. It’s a captivating portrait of a time, a woman, and an outlook.      

From the author: “This book is my life as a young writer; to me and my kind life itself is a story and we have to tell it in stories — that is the way it falls. I have told the truth and nothing but the truth, yet not the whole truth, because that would be impossible.”

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a time to dance, no time to weep by rumer godden

A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep on Amazon
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From the Prologue of A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep

Jon and I stood together on the quay at Plymouth watching as the luggage was unloaded into the Customs Shed from the line the had brought us from India. It was March 1920, the chill grey of a Devon morning with a sharp wind blowing from the sea. Everything was wet and colourless and we were cold to our bones — not only with the cold; we had already had a taste of England.

In 1920 we, the two elder sisters of our family of four were the shocking ages of thirteen an twelve, shocking because we belonged to an era in which every English or Western family of any standing living in India sent their children ‘home’, as it was called, at five or six years old, no matter what the heartbreak on both sides …

It was partly the climate, the dread of catching a chi-chi accent — we already had one — and partly the lack of suitable schools, so that when we too, were six and five we had been left in London with our Godden grandmother and our four maiden aunts in their tall dark house in Randolph Gardens.

It was only for eighteen months; our mother, Mam, had grown nervous of Zeppelins — this was in 1915, the second year of the First World War — and we had been reprieved for five halcyon years in the Indian sun (that was the title Jon and I gave to the book about those years of our childhood, Two Under the Indian Sun).

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More about A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep by Rumer Godden

Books by Rumer Godden

Here is a listing of books by prolific twentieth century author Rumer Godden that you can find more about on this site. More to come as we add them!

Black Narcissus (1939)

A group of nuns in a convent in northern India is the backdrop for a story of cultural conflict and obsessive love.

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Gypsy, Gypsy by Rumer Godden (1940)

In this novel, Godden weaves the same aura of mystery around the Normandy coast that she did around the India of Black Narcissus.

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Kingfishers Catch Fire (1953)

Based on an incident in Godden's own life, Sophie Barrington Ward attempts to make a life in a remote area of India, with dire consequences.

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The Battle of The Villa Fiorita (1963)

This novel delves into a universal dilemma — does a mother have the right to pursue love, or should she set those needs aside for the sake of her children?

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Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy (1979)

In this novel, Godden moves to the world of the French Dominican Sisters of Béthanie, who work among the prostitutes, drug addicts, and vagrants of great cities.

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In This House of Brede (1979)

Philippa Talbot is a successful London career woman turned forty when she feels the call of the religious life.

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A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (1987)

The first of Godden's two-part autobiography illuminates her understanding of the darker side of life, tragedy, loss, and endurance.

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