The Greengage Summer is Rumer Godden’s tense, evocative portrait of love and deceit in the Champagne country of the Marne – which became a memorable film starring Kenneth More and Susannah York. In the preface, Rumer Godden explains how it came to be written.
The Greengage summer like other Rumer Godden novels I have read is wonderfully evocotive of place. There is a constant feeling of a hot and hazy summer, of being in a place that is both exciting and strange, where one is never sure who is who, and what is what. The story of the 5 siblings (Joss 16, Cecil 13, Hester 10 Willmouse 7 and vicky 4) told by Cecil of a summer spent in a rural French hotel. Their mother is ill in a local hospital and so they come under the “care” of Eliot a mysterious Englishman at the hotel, whom they are all strangely drawn to. The novel is so very atmospheric I could almost taste the greenages – and I don’t how they taste – and feel the sun burn my skin. The children (although Joss is often more adult than child) make an enemy in the vampish Mademoiselle Zizi, and meet Paul who works at the hotel and is saving to buy a lorry. As the summer continues, Eliot’s behaviour and changing moods causes some unease. The preface – written by Rumer Godden explains how this novel came to be written and in a sense the story behind it, a true story and one that makes fascinating reading.