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China Court: The Hours of a Country House

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For more than half a century, Rumer Godden has been known as one of the finest and subtlest writers of our day (Saturday Review). Now one of her most endearing classics is being reissued for a new generation of readers. China Court is the story of the hours and days of a country house in Cornwall and five generations of the family who inhabited it.


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For more than half a century, Rumer Godden has been known as one of the finest and subtlest writers of our day (Saturday Review). Now one of her most endearing classics is being reissued for a new generation of readers. China Court is the story of the hours and days of a country house in Cornwall and five generations of the family who inhabited it.

30 review for China Court: The Hours of a Country House

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Rating: 3.875* of five 8 MAY 2019 UPDATE The Kindle edition is $1.99 today only! When I was a youngster, my mother had a lot of books from the 1930s to the 1960s on her shelves. I was allowed to roam freely among them, because she said that if I was old enough to want to read something, I should be able to do so. As one can imagine, the large majority of a mother's bookshelf wasn't all that appealing to a young boy...Taylor Caldwell, Mary Lasswell, Anya Seton, Kathleen Winsor, and Rumer Godden were Rating: 3.875* of five 8 MAY 2019 UPDATE The Kindle edition is $1.99 today only! When I was a youngster, my mother had a lot of books from the 1930s to the 1960s on her shelves. I was allowed to roam freely among them, because she said that if I was old enough to want to read something, I should be able to do so. As one can imagine, the large majority of a mother's bookshelf wasn't all that appealing to a young boy...Taylor Caldwell, Mary Lasswell, Anya Seton, Kathleen Winsor, and Rumer Godden were all well-represented. I called them, collectively, "snoozer biddies." Lots of long-face about loves lost, and noble sacrifices in the name of love, and mothers Doing Their All for Their Children, and blah blah blah blah. Forty years later, I pick up China Court at the prompting of memory and the LT connection cloud bringing Rumer Godden's name back up to me. I half-remember some plot points, I do remember thinking that the rest of the snoozer biddies shoulda talked to this lady, she knew her onions comes to writin', and this was a good story. It's a good story! I think family sagas always appealed to me, and that's why this book snuck past the general opprobrium of youthful disdain heaped on the other books. Not everyone in this book is likable, in fact most of them are pretty skeevy...motivated by greed, lust, vengeful meanness to do some extraordinaily good things, and some cruel ones too. It reminded me then, and does also now, of my own family. China Court is a house. It's not some Stately Manor, it's a big, old-fashined family house. In the early 1960s, big places like this were in a serious period of desuetude in England. This book chronicles the house and the family's intertwined fates at this now-very-distant moment of crisis. It's structured in echo of the Book of Hours Mrs. Quin, the last nineteenth-century native to live in the house, treasured and apparently read often. A Book of Hours, for the non-Catholic, divides the day into periods of prayer. Most of us have heard the terms "Lauds" and "Prime" and so forth, but these are just words...the idea of them, their purpose, is to give a reverential and spiritual cast to a person's every day and every act. Speaking as a practicing anti-Christian, I think this is one of the best, most missed, ideas that modernity has rendered obsolete. I think, if this system of spiritual organization were to be reintroduced, the number of people who *actually* understood the religion they profess would rise exponentially, and I am just optimist enough to hope that there would be a corresponding reduction in the amount of loathsome hate-speech emanating from them. As a narrative force in this novel, I think it's excellent and inspired. I think Rumer Godden deserves the attention of today's readers for her technical talent, her spiritual message, and her ahead-of-the-curve ideas. I recommend this to you. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sira

    I loved this book except for the final two pages. The last scene felt out of place and a bit upsetting after such a beautiful story. I would have given the full five stars if it had ended with the wedding.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kavita

    Another story about a house! I saw this rated pretty highly on a Goodreads friend's shelf, and since we have very similar tastes, I picked it up. I wasn't disappointed. The story follows five generations of the Quin family. One reason I enjoyed this book immensely was because the female Quins weren't just written out once they grew up. So Eustace and Adza marry and have several children, who provided the most interesting characters for the book. The next generation is mostly come down from just o Another story about a house! I saw this rated pretty highly on a Goodreads friend's shelf, and since we have very similar tastes, I picked it up. I wasn't disappointed. The story follows five generations of the Quin family. One reason I enjoyed this book immensely was because the female Quins weren't just written out once they grew up. So Eustace and Adza marry and have several children, who provided the most interesting characters for the book. The next generation is mostly come down from just one branch and represented in the present time. The final link in the chain is Tracy, who is obsessed with the house. China Court is not a mansion and is unconnected with any of those large estates. It, however, has a farm, which is given over to an outcast member of the other big family in the area. The story starts off with Ripsie Quin dying. From there, the author takes us on a long journey of the house and its inhabitants over several decades. But the narrative is in no way chronological. Godden not just plays around with the timelines, she also jumps around with the characters. It is a very hard book to read and I was heartily bored at the beginning. I am glad that I stuck with it, though. Once I got used to the writing style, I was able to follow the story and the characters quite well, and was able to enjoy the book. The story revolves around Ripsie, a village girl, enamoured by the house and its boys, especially the elder one. She is not accepted by the family and is forced to meet the boys only out of the house. When they grow up, they are naturally expected to marry one of their kind. The elder complies, but the younger, having been in love with Ripsie all his life, marries her. They have children, who are depicted but not really represented in the story. Her grandchild, Tracy, is however another character on which the story revolves. Ripsie is by far the most uninteresting character in the book, only outdone by her granddaughter, Tracy. Tracy is the epitome of boring and uninteresting. Frankly, her great aunts decades ago had more spirit and wider interests than this stupid woman. Not only does she attach so much importance to a stupid house, she agrees to the unacceptable conditions of her insufferable grandmother just to keep it. Another annoying character is Peter, who appears to be benign at the beginning, but becomes completely evil by the end, for no reason that I could fathom. The last pages were confusing and added absolutely nothing to the story. The most intriguing characters were in the middle generation. Eliza, Lady Patrick, Anne, and Jared had fascinating stories. I especially loved Eliza, who suffered harshly from the strictures placed on women, but in the end, found a passion that enabled her to throw off the shackles imposed upon her by society. Lady Patrick had such immense pride that even as a woman, she was able to stand her ground when she was betrayed. Anne was another fascinating character, though I would have enjoyed more of her. Overall, despite Tracy, Ripsie, and Peter, I enjoyed reading major chunks of the book. It has also left me wanting more of Godden.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This book tells the story of the days immediately before and after the death of a Cornish matriarch, who knows that, given the chance, her children would sell her beloved home. That alone would have made me pick up the book, because I love the author, and because I love that this story is set in china clay country; a part of Cornwall that I have rarely read about in fiction, though it is an important part of the county’s history and heritage. The narrative moves back in time to tell stories of pre This book tells the story of the days immediately before and after the death of a Cornish matriarch, who knows that, given the chance, her children would sell her beloved home. That alone would have made me pick up the book, because I love the author, and because I love that this story is set in china clay country; a part of Cornwall that I have rarely read about in fiction, though it is an important part of the county’s history and heritage. The narrative moves back in time to tell stories of previous generations who lived there, not in the way of most novels that have stories set in different points in time, but in a way that feels completely natural and right. Sometimes a thought, a sound, a sight can spark a memory can stir a memory; sometimes of just a moment of time and sometimes of a whole story of people, places and incidents long past. That is exactly the way this book works. Rumer Godden did this same thing in an earlier work, A Fugue in Time, and in this book she works with more characters, more history, and – I think – rather more refinement. I was captivated with the story of the elderly matriarch, who was cared for by a lady not a great deal younger who had been her companion; by the story of a granddaughter she called to her side, who had loved the house as a child but had not been there for many years, as when her mother was widowed she had decided to return to her native America, and pick up the threads of her career as an actress; and by the story that played out when daughters returned, with husbands in tow, to look over what they thought was their rightful inheritance. That story became so real to me, and so did many stories from the past. I’m thinking of Eustace and Adza, who bought the house and established the dynasty. I’m thinking of Lady Patrick, the daughter of a wealthy and aristocratic family who eloped with the son of the house and struggled with her changed circumstances, her faithless husband and two young sons. At first I couldn’t warm to her, but as I learned more of her story I came to empathise with her. And I am thinking of the wonderful Eliza, who seemed to be cast as the spinster daughter, and who overcame her anger about her situation to set the course of her own life, by insisting that her brother formalised her position as housekeeper and by pursuing her own interests – especially the books that she loved dearly – when her time was her own. It felt quite natural to move between all of those different stories. When I bought my book I had made sure that I had a family tree to refer to, but I didn’t need it for very long at all’ such was the skill of the author at bringing the house and its occupants to life. She wrote so beautifully, she picked up exactly the right details, and it really did seem that she had walked through that house, unseen, among all of those different generations; understanding the pull of – the importance of – China Court, as a home and for its own sake. There was such skill in construction of the story and in the telling of the tale. The present was written in the past tense and the past was written in the present tense, which might sound odd but it was wonderfully effective; and I loved the way the two could switch, sometimes even in the same sentence, feeling completely natural and right. One character had a story in the present and the past. Ripsie was a child from the village and she became the constant companion of Lady Patrick’s two sons, Borowis and John Henry, while they played outside but as they grew up she found that she was often excluded from their world. Because she had fallen in loved with Borowis, who was brave and spirited, she clung on. When she finally realised that he didn’t love her and that he didn’t even see her as someone who had a place in his world, the steady and sensible John Henry was there to catch her before she fell. They married, and when Ripsie became the lady of the manor she slipped into the role so easily that she could have been born to it. I’m reluctant to pick a favourite from so many wonderful characters and stories, but I think I have to say that I loved Ripsie and her story the best of all; both for her own sake and for what it said about the best and worst of society and of human nature. The antique Book of Hours that she treasured and kept with her always provided headings for each chapter; a lovely reminder of the spirituality that is threaded through so many of Rumer Godden’s books, a lovely thing in its own right, and as I came to the end of the book I realised that it was also an integral part of the story. I also realised that the author had chosen the pieces of the history of the family and the history of the house that she would share carefully and cleverly; to illuminate the past, and to show how the past can shape the present and the future. I did miss the other pieces of history that weren’t shared; and though I understand that not everything could be told, the characters I met and the stories that I learned are so alive in my mind that want to know and understand more. My only other disappointment was the ending. The reading of the will, the fallout from that, the discoveries that were made, were all wonderful; but there was just one thing that I couldn’t quite believe, the resolution of that was rushed, and the very final scene was unsettling and has not dated well. There were so many more things that I loved, and those are the things that have stayed with me since I put the book down.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Bok

    Can a single moment ruin the entire experience of a book? I wouldn't have said so before reading this one, but now... China Court is the story of a house. It is also the story of the generations of a single family who lived in the house, but the house is the principal character. China Court (the house) is the home of the Quin family of Cornwall, a middle-class family of comfortable means but no social distinction. This in-between position isolates them from their neighbors both high and low, and Can a single moment ruin the entire experience of a book? I wouldn't have said so before reading this one, but now... China Court is the story of a house. It is also the story of the generations of a single family who lived in the house, but the house is the principal character. China Court (the house) is the home of the Quin family of Cornwall, a middle-class family of comfortable means but no social distinction. This in-between position isolates them from their neighbors both high and low, and each generation is marked by this separateness. Some go away, never to be fully part of the house's life again; some rage against being trapped there; and a lucky few find their soul through subsuming themselves into the house's life. If that makes this book sound like some kind of spooky horror story, I have misled you. The house is a large but rather ordinary one, but the lives lived there over the generations have given it a life of its own, a life richly rewarding to the family members and servants but only if they have the commonsense to embrace it. Its contents, its rhythms, its sounds and scents are described in lyrical, loving detail, bringing it to life for the reader. By comparison, the lives of the people are revealed in a nonlinear, almost scattershot fashion, being important only as they reveal more about the house. All of this I loved, and I admired the masterful writing that kept me wrapped up in the world Rumer Godden wove. The present tense often erupts into the narrative, giving a timelessness to details large and small. This is an inventive and interesting book, for all its conventional language. And I fell in love with some of the characters, especially the outsider Ripsie, who is in many ways the heart and soul of the house even if the only place she can make her own mark is outdoors, in the garden. But then--a conventional plot device of pulp fiction comes into the (for Godden) present-day portion of the tale. The artificiality of it gave me pause, just a frisson of anxiety over where we were headed. And then the final scene smashed in and may have ruined it all for me. (view spoiler)[I have never been a fan of the bodice-ripper genre, and when a previously rational man goes caveman all of a sudden it leaves me stone cold and I start screaming at the heroine to start running and keep going. (hide spoiler)] I know I am coming to the book with the perspective of a twenty-first-century reader and I shouldn't judge the mores of an earlier age, but the ending just left an ugly taste in my mouth and I can't get it out. Maybe read to the 96 percent mark and leave it at that, if you really want to appreciate the loveliness of this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    If you're the kind of person who froths at the mouth whenever you see a beautiful home being torn town to make room for condos, you need to read China Court. It's the story of a young girl's efforts to save her grandmother's home in the Cornish countryside. There's a bit of time travel involved with this book; Godden skips between generations to show everything the home has witnessed over the years. And while this can be confusing, it's a technique that ultimately pays off. The resolution to thi If you're the kind of person who froths at the mouth whenever you see a beautiful home being torn town to make room for condos, you need to read China Court. It's the story of a young girl's efforts to save her grandmother's home in the Cornish countryside. There's a bit of time travel involved with this book; Godden skips between generations to show everything the home has witnessed over the years. And while this can be confusing, it's a technique that ultimately pays off. The resolution to this story literally made me gasp -- it's so daring, I loved it! This is among my favorite Rumer Godden books, and considering I love them all, that says a lot.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ange H

    No rating/did not finish. I couldn't even give this my "50 page" test. China Court is written in the stream-of-consciousness style that I dislike the most: the author believes it's artistic and literary to throw characters and sentences and images randomly on the page, with no introduction, chronology, or context; and it is my job to figure out what the hell is going on. I'm very disappointed because if I was able to locate the story, it seems like something I would have enjoyed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kirsty

    China Court is part of a newly reissued series of Godden’s novels, printed by Virago. This particular novel is dedicated to the famous English poet John Betjeman, and was first published in the early 1960s. It tells the tale of the Quin family, who have been inhabitants of a large house named China Court for several generations. Tracy Quin, the daughter of a film star, is the youngest member of the Quin family. She has been brought up on various film sets around the world, and has finally tried t China Court is part of a newly reissued series of Godden’s novels, printed by Virago. This particular novel is dedicated to the famous English poet John Betjeman, and was first published in the early 1960s. It tells the tale of the Quin family, who have been inhabitants of a large house named China Court for several generations. Tracy Quin, the daughter of a film star, is the youngest member of the Quin family. She has been brought up on various film sets around the world, and has finally tried to put down roots in China Court in Cornwall following the death of her grandmother. The story more or less opens with Tracy and her mother, and then follows other individuals from different generations of the family. Whilst this idea is an interesting one, it has not been written or executed in such a way that renders the story difficult to put down, or even makes it clear. The Quin family which Tracy descends from is so large – the first generation alone has nine children, for example – that a family tree has been included before the story even begins. Godden has defended her choice of this inclusion in the preface, which states, ‘In real life, when one meets a large family, with all its ramifications of uncles, aunts and cousins, as well as grandfathers and grandmothers, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, their friends, servants, and pet animals, it takes some time to distinguish them; one does not expect to remember straightaway that it is Jane who is married to Bertram, Jack who was born with a club foot, Aunt Margaret who had the unfortunate love affair… China Court is a novel about five generations of a family… I believe if the reader is a little patient – and can bear not to skip – they will soon become distinct and he will have no need to look at the family tree on the frontispiece’. Sadly, a growing clarification of who is who and the relations between members of the family are nigh on impossible to remember without the aid of the aforementioned family tree, and Godden’s intention falls flat somewhat. So many characters are introduced at one time in places that the family dynamic becomes overly confused. The family tree is invaluable in this respect, but it becomes rather annoying to flip back and forth merely in order to work out who is related to who, and in which way. The introduction of so many people in so short a space renders the novel rather stolid and entirely confusing. The characters blend into one indistinguishable mess. The story is quickly saturated with information about the Quin family, not all of whom are remotely interesting. The tenses, too, jump around from past to present and back again from one paragraph to the next. There are few breaks between different time periods; rather, Godden has created a continuous narrative which just adds to the confusion. The opening line of the novel is striking: ‘Old Mrs Quin died in her sleep in the early hours of an August morning’. We are then launched straight into the dynamics of the Quin’s country house, which stands in a village which is ‘proudly inbred’. The sense of place which Godden has created works well at times, particularly when her descriptions are lovely – motes of dust ‘glittered and spun in the sun that came through the window’ and ‘A tiny fly whirred in the roses’, for example – and not so well at others. The way in which she describes the geographical position of China Court, for example, is so matter-of-fact that it reads like a piece of journalistic non-fiction. Dialects have been used in the speech of some characters in order to better set the scene, and the intended meaning of such chatter is not often easy to translate. The dialogue throughout has not been split up into the form of a conventional literary conversation, and there are often two or three individuals who speak in any one paragraph. China Court does not have the same charming feel of The Dolls’ House, or the wonderful exuberance and great cast of Thursday’s Children. The execution of this story is wholly disappointing, and whilst the plot and general idea of following several generations who are intrinsically linked to one another is an interesting one, it has not been carried out in the best of ways. In consequence, it is rather difficult for a reader of China Court to muster that patience which Godden urges us to have.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Mine was a yellow paged oldie, with taped binding and a thick rubber band holding the ILL tags and the hardcover (supplemented with repair thickness)intact and flat. I was surprised they sent this book through the transport van system as it needed gentle. But I'm glad they did. And it wasn't long- maybe about 25 pages- that I remembered I had read it before. Many, many, many years ago. But I remembered John Henry and Ripsy very well. And I read it again, and enjoyed it again. Lots of layers and ra Mine was a yellow paged oldie, with taped binding and a thick rubber band holding the ILL tags and the hardcover (supplemented with repair thickness)intact and flat. I was surprised they sent this book through the transport van system as it needed gentle. But I'm glad they did. And it wasn't long- maybe about 25 pages- that I remembered I had read it before. Many, many, many years ago. But I remembered John Henry and Ripsy very well. And I read it again, and enjoyed it again. Lots of layers and rather a puzzle you need to work outwords- like a jigsaw type. Putting everyone in their place and time! But the house is the backdrop, the support- always there. And it is written within the sensibilities of a past worldview, as well. LOVE that aspect- as most historical fiction of the last 15 years is written within entirely revisionist judgment and outlook. Which really makes it fairly phony, IMHO. Very clever book in its convolution of the generations, as well. Really nails the location and the mores of this family and their shared society. But makes you work for it. And in the process the personal and detail complexity becomes revealed- deeply too, at times.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    I really enjoyed this novel of life in an English country house throughout five generations. Although the characters at first were confusing (the author jumps around with time periods and you have to keep your head together while reading), I became enamored of the main character, Ripsie, pretty quickly. Ripsie is a young 'waif', a poor village child who cannot stop gazing in through the gates of China House. Soon she becomes playmates with the children who live there, although the class distincti I really enjoyed this novel of life in an English country house throughout five generations. Although the characters at first were confusing (the author jumps around with time periods and you have to keep your head together while reading), I became enamored of the main character, Ripsie, pretty quickly. Ripsie is a young 'waif', a poor village child who cannot stop gazing in through the gates of China House. Soon she becomes playmates with the children who live there, although the class distinctions for the time period don't make it easy for her. We follow her story as she grows up, marries one of the sons of the house, and has her own children. In between Ripsie's experiences are scattered vignettes (that the reader eventually pieces together) of the forebears who have lived in China House, English village customs (and gardens! the descriptions of the countryside are wonderful). I loved the author's talent for prose. "Even when one is stricken, much remains; often creature things: drinking good tea from a thin porcelain cup; hot baths; the smell of a wood fire, the warmth of firelight and candlelight. The sound of a stream can be consolation, thinks Mrs. Quin, or the shape of a tree; even stricken, she can enjoy those...How ridiculous to find consolation in food, but it is true and when one is taking those first steps back, bruised and wounded, one can read certain books: Hans Andersen, and the Psalms, Jane Austen, a few other novels. Helped by those things, life reasserts itself, as it must..." When Mrs. Quin (Ripsie), dies, her will is full of surprises and the family reactions are priceless. This section in my opinion, 'crowns' the story. The author cleverly weaves a story of past generations and their actions that ultimately affect future generations, in an intriguing and unforgettable novel.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Ogden

    Rumer Godden was born in England in 1907. She grew up in India and returned to England as an adult, dying in Scotland in 1998. It is a mystery to me why I didn’t discover her long ago. As with so many good authors, she was recommended by a literary friend. As she said, Godden’s book China Court (first published in 1960) is the best example of the use of flashbacks in a novel that she has ever read. How I agree. China Court is a big—but not grand—house in Cornwall and this is the story of five ge Rumer Godden was born in England in 1907. She grew up in India and returned to England as an adult, dying in Scotland in 1998. It is a mystery to me why I didn’t discover her long ago. As with so many good authors, she was recommended by a literary friend. As she said, Godden’s book China Court (first published in 1960) is the best example of the use of flashbacks in a novel that she has ever read. How I agree. China Court is a big—but not grand—house in Cornwall and this is the story of five generations of the family, including the servants, who lived in it. The story covers a time-span from about the 1830s to 1960. The central character is Mrs. Quin who knew all five generations, beginning when she was a small girl on the outside looking in—and in love with the dashing grandson of the elderly owners. She marries the rather solid brother of the dashing grandson and we get to know the aunts and uncles, her children and finally her granddaughter. Like all good literary fiction, the end of the book is a reflection of the beginning. In fact the beginning and end are both of Mrs. Quin’s death, and in between we are dropped seamlessly in and out of generations of births, marriages, deaths and everything that makes a family a family. The writing is lyrical. “Home is very much in the smell of a house; at China Court the smell is always of smoke, peat and woodsmoke; of flowers, polish, wine and lavender; of wet wool from the outdoor coats, the drab smell of gumboots and galoshes, and earlier, of dubbin rubbed into gaiters; and of gun oil and of paraffin for the lamps. On Mondays the prevailing smell is of soap and water, boiling and steam; on Wednesdays of baking. That is perhaps the best smell; when the bread-oven door is opened, the scent of hot loaves fills all the house.” (p46). For Mrs. Quin memories are often gathered together by like rather than by time or generation; the memory of one marriage blends into another, the telling of one daughter’s rebellion becomes the story of another in another generation. It is masterfully done, so that the passing of time is secondary to the stories and the people; it is as if they are all encompassed by the house simultaneously. How grounding this lovely book is in the contemporary world of moving forward and getting on and throwing out.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elinor

    There was so much to love about this book -- the old English house, called China Court because its owners made their fortune mining the special clay used to produce china -- plus three generations of fascinating family members. Unfortunately most of them led unhappy lives, until the youngest granddaughter makes an appearance. Her parents were divorced and she was taken away at an early age by her mother, but she cherishes her childhood memories of China Court and loves it just as much as does he There was so much to love about this book -- the old English house, called China Court because its owners made their fortune mining the special clay used to produce china -- plus three generations of fascinating family members. Unfortunately most of them led unhappy lives, until the youngest granddaughter makes an appearance. Her parents were divorced and she was taken away at an early age by her mother, but she cherishes her childhood memories of China Court and loves it just as much as does her grandmother, Mrs. Quin. Like other reviewers, I was shocked at an incident in the final chapter which is definitely NOT acceptable by today's standards, but it didn't ruin the book for me. I especially loved the descriptions of the house, food, clothing, garden, and old books in the library. For me, the trappings of domesticity are always appealing in a novel.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    The weird wedding with its shrew(!?)-taming ending made me howl with indignation. It may reflect its times, but that argument always strikes me as a wee bit patronizing of the sensibilities of the past. It's a very surprizing ending, given Godden's sympathy with characters who chafe against the way their lives are limited. Even though some of the characters were caricatures, there were some interesting portraits, and the concept of a house full of the echoes of its families was engaging. What I The weird wedding with its shrew(!?)-taming ending made me howl with indignation. It may reflect its times, but that argument always strikes me as a wee bit patronizing of the sensibilities of the past. It's a very surprizing ending, given Godden's sympathy with characters who chafe against the way their lives are limited. Even though some of the characters were caricatures, there were some interesting portraits, and the concept of a house full of the echoes of its families was engaging. What I most enjoyed were her loving, beautiful descriptions of gardening and rare books.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie Durnell

    I really struggled with this book at first, but once you become familiar with the family and servants, and the generational hopscotch writing, the story slowly draws you in. Thankfully my copy had the family tree on both ends of the book, which I referred to frequently! Mrs. Quin and her granddaughter Tracy are my favorite characters in a most unusual telling of life in an English country house over a century ago.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    One of my favorite authors-- as usual her work is great. A good read

  16. 4 out of 5

    Trisha

    So much that is lovely and honest and sad here, and then you read the last few pages. What was Godden thinking?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Virginia

    Rumer Godden’s China Court: The Hours of a Country House is a lyrical novel that has one nuanced character—the court (or house) itself. This Cornish estate has been passed through five generations of family members. The main action unfolds over the course of a few days when the matriarch of the family, Mrs. Quin (Ripsie), dies and her children and grandchild are confronted with her surprising will. However, Godden continually flashes back to moments in the lives of past and present family membe Rumer Godden’s China Court: The Hours of a Country House is a lyrical novel that has one nuanced character—the court (or house) itself. This Cornish estate has been passed through five generations of family members. The main action unfolds over the course of a few days when the matriarch of the family, Mrs. Quin (Ripsie), dies and her children and grandchild are confronted with her surprising will. However, Godden continually flashes back to moments in the lives of past and present family members, moments that give the current happenings depth and perspective. Prominent in this novel are tensions related to class and family loyalty. I appreciated aspects of this novel, particularly the beauty of Godden’s descriptive passages, which engage all senses. That house and all of its surroundings did come alive for me. However, the thinness of most of the characters and poverty of plot left me less than fully engaged, and the ending was off-putting and strange. If you do choose to read China Court (keep in mind that many other readers liked it much better than I did), to avoid perplexity, I urge you to keep in hand a copy of the family tree that appears in the beginning of the novel.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marigold

    This was a re-read. I was looking for something on my bookshelf & came across this, which I originally read as a teenager, having stolen it off my mom's shelf! If you like Downton Abbey you'll probably like this book. This is the story of five generations of an upper middle class English family who live in a country house, & over the more modern generations it becomes increasingly neglected, but Tracy - the descendant of all these generations - is determined to save it. This is really nicely wri This was a re-read. I was looking for something on my bookshelf & came across this, which I originally read as a teenager, having stolen it off my mom's shelf! If you like Downton Abbey you'll probably like this book. This is the story of five generations of an upper middle class English family who live in a country house, & over the more modern generations it becomes increasingly neglected, but Tracy - the descendant of all these generations - is determined to save it. This is really nicely written. I like the way the stories of family members from different generations are interspersed with one another so you get a sense of time as a great weaving with the house at its center & the various people woven into the thread around it. I also like the way the book was organized around the readings for the hours of the day in a prayer book. This has significance later on in the story. As others have noted, the technique of mixing up the timeline can be a little confusing, so it's good if you're reading an edition with the family tree & relevant years in it. Ultimately I think it's more interesting told this way. I also agree that the ending is a bit disconcerting. Blame it on the era in which it was written...but even so, not an excuse. I like thinking up alternate endings. But whatever happens, after reading this story I'm sure you'll hope that China Court is saved, repaired & made a happy home again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Holly A. Woodruff

    Painful to read This book is such a mishmash that I don't know where to start. There are a lot of characters, and the author calls them by different names so I was never sure who was who. For example, Mrs. Quin is Ripsie as a girl and maybe a teen and maybe a young woman, but never are there dates so you have no idea of the sequence of events. The time frame jumps literally from one sentence to the next without warning. The "current" events - at least as best I can tell - are written in a past te Painful to read This book is such a mishmash that I don't know where to start. There are a lot of characters, and the author calls them by different names so I was never sure who was who. For example, Mrs. Quin is Ripsie as a girl and maybe a teen and maybe a young woman, but never are there dates so you have no idea of the sequence of events. The time frame jumps literally from one sentence to the next without warning. The "current" events - at least as best I can tell - are written in a past tense voice. O!set events, such as when Ripsie is involved, are written in present tense voice. And the detail. Pages upon pages of deciding what dress to wear, or what is being cooked for dinner. It's hard to tell if anything is actually happening. I started skimming about halfway through the book just to get to the end so I could write this review and warn others. I was excited to read this because I love historical fiction about almost any period in English history, but this book did me in. I have never struggled to read a book as much as this, except maybe War and Peace which I never finished. The biography and pictures of the author at the end of the book are the most interesting. And short. Do yourself a favor and get a sample of this book before buying it. China Court could have been fascinating with linear exposition that would allow you to get to know the family, consistent voice rather than the mix of present and last tense, and less mind numbing detail.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abbey

    BOTTOM LINE: Excellent family saga novel, with the various eras all mixed together, at first disconcerting but ultimately absorbing. Wonderful stuff, very old-fashioned and rather sweetly predictable. There's enough family history in this one medium-sized novel (304 pages) to compare it favorably with others in the genre that are gorgeous multi-book reads albeit enormously longer (i.e., Forsyte Saga, Jalna series). Ostensibly it concerns the matriarch of an upper-middle-class British family and BOTTOM LINE: Excellent family saga novel, with the various eras all mixed together, at first disconcerting but ultimately absorbing. Wonderful stuff, very old-fashioned and rather sweetly predictable. There's enough family history in this one medium-sized novel (304 pages) to compare it favorably with others in the genre that are gorgeous multi-book reads albeit enormously longer (i.e., Forsyte Saga, Jalna series). Ostensibly it concerns the matriarch of an upper-middle-class British family and her fortunes over almost a 100 years (~1860-1940) although the majority of the story centers around the matriarch's death in 1939 and her peculiar will. As the story gradually (VERY gradually...) unfolds, we are allowed to experience both the old lady's last days on earth and her childhood and young adulthood around the estate and the local village. The characters are extremely well-drawn, and although the young grandaughter seems quite wimpy now, in 1940 her behaviors would likely have seemed quite "usual", at least for a certain class and upbringing. Yes, there's a hero, and also several not so heroic young men, but the center of the novel is Ripsie, the young village outcast who becomes the matriarch of a rambunctious family line and, eventually, the irascible old lady at the center of the will disputes that power the ending of the story. Recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    I'm not sure why I'd never read this before a couple of years ago, as I have adored In This House of Brede for years, and China Court is one of the better-known of Godden's other books. It tells the tale of China Court and of the Quin family, over the years they live there. Godden interweaves the past with the present masterfully, with layers upon layers of stories slowly unfolding in tandem; while the present-day sections are told in the past tense, Godden slips into the present tense when she I'm not sure why I'd never read this before a couple of years ago, as I have adored In This House of Brede for years, and China Court is one of the better-known of Godden's other books. It tells the tale of China Court and of the Quin family, over the years they live there. Godden interweaves the past with the present masterfully, with layers upon layers of stories slowly unfolding in tandem; while the present-day sections are told in the past tense, Godden slips into the present tense when she goes back in time, lending past events the immediacy of the present. Although there's necessarily a somewhat large cast of characters, they're richly portrayed as individuals and handled as masterfully as the narrative is.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary Frances

    This book, while not one of Godden's best, is intersting and engrossing. It weaves together three time lines and three women, all living at different times in one house, China Court. Godden has a distinctive voice and style, and was very popular in the first half of the 20th century, and her stuff, if you can find it, is worth a look. Some members of my work book club loved it , some hated it. I myself recommend one of my favorite Godden books: In This House of Brede,The Battle of the Villa Fior This book, while not one of Godden's best, is intersting and engrossing. It weaves together three time lines and three women, all living at different times in one house, China Court. Godden has a distinctive voice and style, and was very popular in the first half of the 20th century, and her stuff, if you can find it, is worth a look. Some members of my work book club loved it , some hated it. I myself recommend one of my favorite Godden books: In This House of Brede,The Battle of the Villa Fiorita or a memoir A House with Four Wallsfor a fascinating look at godden's interesting life in India.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gloria

    So my mother tried to get me to read Rumer Godden for years, and I don't know why I resisted seeing as I'm usually won over by anything set in an English country house (maybe it was because I was a teenager - though hardly a rebellious one). After my local library thoroughly disappointed me by not stocking Dorothy Sayers so I could re-read her and get my Lord Peter fix, I decided to give Godden a try. This book was engrossing, but something about it left me cold. Maybe it was the very odd ending So my mother tried to get me to read Rumer Godden for years, and I don't know why I resisted seeing as I'm usually won over by anything set in an English country house (maybe it was because I was a teenager - though hardly a rebellious one). After my local library thoroughly disappointed me by not stocking Dorothy Sayers so I could re-read her and get my Lord Peter fix, I decided to give Godden a try. This book was engrossing, but something about it left me cold. Maybe it was the very odd ending, which involves a woman getting slapped. But I won't write Godden off.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    I love rambling family sagas, especially those set in England; so this book did not disappoint on that front. Other reviewers have been critical of the rambling, time-shifting narrative, but I enjoyed the novel's structure, and bought into the author's assertion that meeting a large family takes time to distinguish who is who. To me, the entire family was revealed much as one peels the layers of an onion. I am critical, however, of the ending -- not only was it jarring (and disturbing), it felt I love rambling family sagas, especially those set in England; so this book did not disappoint on that front. Other reviewers have been critical of the rambling, time-shifting narrative, but I enjoyed the novel's structure, and bought into the author's assertion that meeting a large family takes time to distinguish who is who. To me, the entire family was revealed much as one peels the layers of an onion. I am critical, however, of the ending -- not only was it jarring (and disturbing), it felt abrupt in a manner was was entirely at odds with the meandering pace of the rest of the novel.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Verity W

    I'm still not sure what I think of this. It took me ages to get into it, but then when I did, I wanted to keep reading and find out what had happened. And yet, at the end, I still wasn't sure what I thought. Odd. Not as satisfying as the big old family novels like the Cazalets, but more substantial than a normal saga. Strange.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Virginia

    Ugh. Love this author. Hate this book. Gave up after about 50 pages.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Constant Reader

    Beautifully written book about a house and the generation that lived in it. A reminder that life is what we make it. It is a little slow in places but worth sticking through.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Liz Hoy

    Did not like the premise of starting the reader off with a feeling of "a family gathering where the reader doesn't know anyone." Did not make it past page 50.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Wichorek

    Lovely novel about three generations of a family who live in a beautiful country house in Cornwall.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Trisha

    Another in my “read through the 20th century” project, this was published in 1960 and just goes to show that it’s a good idea to read old books! With a few exceptions I loved most everything about this beautifully written book that’s set in Cornwall in a rambling old country house sadly in need of renovation. The house figures significantly in the narrative because it has been home for five generations of the family who has lived there. I’ve read this book before and liked it as much then as I d Another in my “read through the 20th century” project, this was published in 1960 and just goes to show that it’s a good idea to read old books! With a few exceptions I loved most everything about this beautifully written book that’s set in Cornwall in a rambling old country house sadly in need of renovation. The house figures significantly in the narrative because it has been home for five generations of the family who has lived there. I’ve read this book before and liked it as much then as I did this time around except for the way it ended, especially the last few pages. Obviously they were written at a time when it seems to have been acceptable for men to slap women around, nevertheless the scene raised too many red flags for me to simply excuse it. Other than that I enjoyed the way the novel chronicles the stories of multiple generations of one family, weaving them together back and forth so that the secrets they’ve hidden, the betrayals they’ve experienced, and they passions they’ve felt are all revealed gradually. But what really stands out about this novel is the way Godden uses time itself as a structural device. Admittedly this takes a while to get used to because while the narrative unfolds over five generations Godden uses the present tense to portray significant episodes in the lives of a wide range of vivid characters, often shifting abruptly from one time period to another without warning in the same paragraph. Godden has structured her novel around the monastic Liturgy of the Hours and that may be a bit confusing unless a reader is familiar with what they are. But those of us who have had a chance to experience Prime, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline in a monastic setting understand that the Liturgy of the Hours is a way to pay attention to the sacred nature of time itself as it moves throughout the hours of the day. In using the monastic hours as a structural device I think Godden is emphasizing what is sacred about the hours that flow through the lives of each generation of a family: “The stories are different – of course, each has its time and place – yet they are all alike in that, as with every day, they must be lived through from sunrise to sunset, all the hours of the day; and as the day ends, it begins.”

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