Book Reviews

Two Under the Indian Sun: A Memoir by Jon and Rumer Godden

It’s not often that you find two sisters collaborating on a joint memoir, as is the case with Two Under the Indian Sun (1966). That Jon and Rumer Godden did so after becoming successful authors in their own right is all the more interesting.

Among Rumer’s successes were her bestselling novels Black Narcissus and The River, as well as her memoirs, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep and A House with Four Rooms. Jon’s works include The Bird Escaped, The House by the Sea, and A Winter’s Tale. The two sisters also collaborated on other highly acclaimed works like Shiva’s Pigeon and Indian Dust.

What is remarkable about this memoir is that though it was published in adulthood, the Godden sisters are able to pick up the sheer joy of being two little girls, growing up in India, in a small place called Narayangunj, in undivided Bengal/India, where their father is employed in a shipping company. Read More→


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Tomorrow Will Be Better by Betty Smith (1948)

Betty Smith’s first novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943), was a tough act to follow. And while her subsequent novels were all solid efforts, they didn’t achieve the phenomenal success of her debut. Tomorrow Will Be Better (1948), Smith’s second novel, is still very much worth discovering.

The families depicted in Tomorrow Will Be Better — the Shannons and the Malones — might be fictional neighbors of the Nolan family of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Set in the tenements of Brooklyn in the 1920s, it’s a quintessentially American tale of pursuing dreams in the face of obstacles — not the least of which is poverty. 

Margy Shannon, a young woman filled with hope, is central to the narrative. In search of happiness and a better life, she faces disappointment with fortitude and dignity. As the review that follows noted, “Miss Smith has written a quiet, warm book about people she obviously knows and loves well.” Read More→


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Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier (1943)

Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier is a 1943 novel by the prolific British author and playwright. Her seventh novel takes the form of a multigenerational family saga taking place from 1820 to 1920.

Inspired by actual events and places, the story follows the fortunes of the Brodricks, Anglo-Irish landowners who inhabit Clonmere castle.

While Hungry Hill  hasn’t remained as well-known as some of du Maurier’s more famous novels, notably Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, Jamaica Inn, Frenchman’s Creek, and The Scapegoat, it was successful in its time. It went through dozens of editions, and like many of du Maurier’s other works, it was adapted to film. However, the 1947 movie version was roundly panned. Read More→


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The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (1979)

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979) is perhaps the best-known work by British author Angela Carter (1940 – 1992). A novelist, short story writer, and journalist, she earned a reputation as one of Britain’s most original writers.

Her influences ranged from fairy tales, gothic fantasy, and Shakespeare to surrealism and the cinema of Godard and Fellini. Her work broke taboos and was often considered provocative.

The Bloody Chamber is a collection of re-envisioned imaginings (not, as often described, retellings) of classic European fairy tales. They range in length from very short stories to novellas, and include: Read More→


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The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (1969)

The House on the Strand  (1969) is one of prolific British author Daphne du Maurier’s later novels, and perhaps one of those less widely read and not as critically acclaimed.

The story, set in her own beloved Cornwall, is one of time travel, with elements of the gothic and supernatural. The narrator, Richard (Dick) Young, gains access to a drug that transports him from the present day (and a life he finds rather dreary) to the 14th century. There, he becomes involved in the lives of those he meets, and his two worlds collide.

A recent reconsideration of The House on the Strand on the official Daphne du Maurier site, sums up the novel’s storyline: Read More→


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