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China Court: The Hours of a Country House
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China Court: The Hours of a Country House

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  319 ratings  ·  44 reviews
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.
Paperback, 358 pages
Published December 31st 1993 by William Morrow & Company (first published 1961)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3.875* of five

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, "snoo
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Stephanie
Oct 12, 2007 Stephanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves old houses
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
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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.
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 ...more
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 ...more
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
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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
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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 ...more
Hope
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Allison
I was disappointed by this book. The story spans several generations of inhabitants at China Court with many lovely, fresh, nuanced characters- except for the present day set of family, who ruin it. Bella and the Three Graces who are thankless, greedy, and selfish in such a heavy handed way that is distracting; Stacy and Peter, the heroic young couple, are so perfect and one dimensional that I didn't give two shits what happened to them. I liked the flashbacks to previous generations, the manner ...more
Ginny
Fascinating, complex book with a variety of stories intertwined. I loved the setting and the surprises in the plot. Must add the caveat that it can be a hard book to read if you have small children in the house -- it demands focus to keep all those generations of family members straight, and if a kiddo keeps talking to you as you read, it's exponentially more difficult. (I sure wish Godden had put a family tree in the first few pages. In the edition I read, she wrote that she didn't think it wou ...more
Sheryl
The narrative is a difficult structure of all the memories of the house from the point of view of the women who lived there. It's an interesting if unwitting model of the household economies of the passing 19th through early 20th centuries as rural populations disburse to the cities and out into the world. The character of Ripsie is sympathetic but not fully developed. Nostalgia is not too strong a description of the flavor of it.
Candy Wood
In some ways this is a typical family romance (serialized in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1960), the story of several relationships in one Cornwall house, built in the 19th century and named after the family’s newly-acquired china clay works. The focus on the house makes it less typical, as each chapter is defined by a canonical hour but the events of many years are recounted in each. In the present day, Mrs. Quin has died, leaving the house’s fate in question: her daughters believe it should be sold ...more
Malaferla
The author takes several generations of a Cornish family (no, not Welsh, as someone else wrote) and tells all their stories simultaneously - it is up to the reader to determine which year it is as the tale jumps back and forth from 1840 to 1960. Very intriguing. I liked it right up to the last few pages, where the author created an awkward (almost uncomfortable) resolution. The rest of the book deserved a better last chapter.
Kevin
Last night I finished re-reading China Court, a book that I first read many years ago at the encouragement of my Mom. It has stayed with me over the years, but it was also strange to realize just how much about it I had forgotten. I suppose that's appropriate for a book in which time itself is a central theme. What I did remember was how elegantly Rumer Godden constructed her tale, shifting back and forth in time, often from paragraph to paragraph, but never in a way that felt gimmicky. If anyth ...more
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 ...more
Rosemary
Normally, I absolutely adore books about Cornwall, but this one wasn't the greatest. Sorry, but while I found it well written as far as imagery goes, it was kind of jumbled and all over the place. Not very cohesive. It didn't really pull in the reader. You just felt like stuff was being thrown all over the place.
Jessica
This was just a dear, dear old book. I admired Rumer Godden's ability to weave the family's stories not only from chapter to chapter but literally within paragraphs! I don't think I've ever read another book where this unusual method was used... It worked so well to make all the characters come (and stay) alive. The only reason I gave China Court four stars instead of five is that yes, parts of the plot were completely predictable - you could see what was coming next from a mile away, but the wr ...more
Heidi
China Court tells the story of an old house and its occupants in Cornwall, jumping back and forth in time between its various inhabitants. At the beginning this darting about is confusing, a bit like following the changing patterns of a kaleidoscope, but as you get used to the rhythm you find yourself sliding comfortably into it. The present day story concerns the efforts of Tracy, the grandaughter of the recently deceased owner and inheritor of the house, to keep her inheritance instead of havi ...more
Christina Dudley
A lovely book which held my interest despite the library copy missing a helpful family tree. Some family members remained vague to me to the end, but I loved the overall palimpsest effect, where all the different eras overlapped in the memories of the house. I agree that the ending was bizarre and unexpected, but ignore that and you have a good read.
Melanie
This is almost five stars...I loved it all the way through until the last few pages. They were horribly jarring and nearly ruined it for me. So now I stop reading at the second to last chapter. ;)
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 ...more
Liz Fenwick
Wow, I transported not only back into the world in the book but into my childhood and the books I read then. I loved this book. It is so evocative and captured a lost world. China Court weaves a spellof the life of a house from it's beginning in the late 1800s to the the late 1950s...it was a bit like opening a time capsule. Magic. It take focus as the story comes at you in swirls and from different view points but is worth preserving through so that you can live in that world...I loved the use ...more
Arlene
I have just become a Rumer Godden enthusiast and this is the third book that I have read. It was hard to find China Court as it was written in 1960 but I managed to find a copy on Paperback Swap. With everyone loving Downton Abbey...these period pieces are all the rage among readers. China Court tells the story of four generations of the Quin Family and their home, China Court. It is a cozy read but interesting. It will keep the reader alert by the sudden transitions between the generations. I w ...more
Amanda
stuck between four and five stars on this one - it has its flaws, but I enjoyed reading it so much, and have thought about it quite a bit since finishing it, so I think it deserves all five :)
Ann Warner
I love Rumer Godden, but had somehow missed reading this book until now. It has an unusual structure which requires the reader to be patient as Godden weaves together the stories of all the people who have lived at China Court, moving from one to another seamlessly over a span of years. It's not my favorite Godden, but as an author, I had to admire her mastery as I had little trouble following the various threads and timelines.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I'm a Godden fan so I knew I would like China Court, but I was surprised to find I loved it. Despite not being Catholic myself, I find the cultural associations with Catholicism to be appealing and so the plot line with the Book of Hours kept me engrossed in this story. Like others have observed, it feels very contrived at times, but it wasn't enough to keep me from finishing the book.
Stacie
This is one of my favorite stories. It took me a while before I figured out what was going on with all the characters and the flashbacks, but once the pieces started falling together this book found a place in my heart.

I don't remember when I first read this, I was quite young – my mother had a copy - but it was a happy day for me when I found my own copy secondhand.
Carrie
I loved this book until the last three pages -- I then recoiled in anger and threw the tome across the room. What a shame I have to include this in my own definition of modern fiction (post-1960), since what infuriates me about this book is the outdated, extremely sexist ending.

Not to say that Godden isn't a good writer, because she certainly is. However..... grrrr.
Whit
A wonderful book ruined by the last two pages.
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She was born in Sussex, England, but grew up in India, in Narayanganj. Many of her 60 books are set in India. Black Narcissus was made into a famous movie with Deborah Kerr in 1947.

Godden wrote novels, poetry, plays, biographies, and books for children.

For more information, see the official website: Rumer Godden
More about Rumer Godden...
The Story of Holly and Ivy In This House of Brede The Dolls' House The Greengage Summer Miss Happiness and Miss Flower

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