Book review: Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden

Two Under the Indian Sun by Jon and Rumer Godden

It was 1914 and war had been declared. Two sisters, of seven and a half and six, had been dispatched back to England the year before from India to be raised there while their parents remained in India. But then the war came, the zeppelins started flying, and at the most impressionable of all ages the two girls were sent back to India again.

This is their memoir of five years under the Indian sun. The sisters, when they grew up, both became successful novelists, although Jon Godden is little read now in comparison to her younger sister. But, if anything, it’s the fierce, determined voice of Jon Godden that is the stronger in this book, although it remains a true collaboration.

The girls loved India: its smells, its light, its colours, its people. Perhaps it was the ideal time to be taken back to India as the country is a place of extremes but so also is childhood, and for the girls childhood and India merged and became one. So much so that, as adults, both of them returned to India and lived there, remaining in the country after independence in 1947.

If you want as vivid a picture of early 20th century India as has been written – the vividness enhanced by being filtered through the recalled memories of childhood – then this is an excellent book. It also provides an insightful look into the lives of the last generation of British administrators, through the girls’ memories of their parents. Recommended for those with an interest in India.


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