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China Court: The Hours of a Country House

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  383 Ratings  ·  53 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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24th out of 169 books — 53 voters
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40th out of 111 books — 71 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 772)
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Richard Derus
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
Oct 12, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 06, 2008 Sira rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 28, 2013 Jeanette rated it really liked it
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
Jenni Ogden
Mar 18, 2012 Jenni Ogden rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 14, 2010 Patricia rated it liked it
Shelves: britain
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
Sep 06, 2015 Marigold rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ni
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
Julie  Durnell
Aug 20, 2015 Julie Durnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england-uk
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.
Aug 06, 2008 Gloria rated it liked it
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
Apr 06, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
A beautiful book with virtuosic writing at times, but a cringy, unfortunate ending.
While many reviewers found the present-tense telling of the history of a house and its inhabitants confusing, slow moving and clunky, I found it genius. Godden weaves three generations into a pretty seamless tale. She uses the narrative device to build suspense in a story that, told traditionally, wouldn't have held any. I don't think the general reader understands how difficult it must have been to pull off. Try
Oct 27, 2014 Hope rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 10, 2014 Allison rated it liked it
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
Jul 01, 2013 Ginny rated it really liked it
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
Oct 02, 2014 Sheryl rated it liked it
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
Oct 02, 2014 Malaferla rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
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.
Jan 26, 2011 Kevin rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 29, 2014 Rosemary rated it it was ok
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.
Anna McLeod
Dec 31, 2015 Anna McLeod rated it it was amazing
Timeless classic about a family who have inhabited a house, China Court, through the generations. It skips about back and forth giving each person's insight into their lives, loves and events surrounding them. A much read and re read favourite.
Jul 01, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it
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
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
Apr 24, 2014 Christina Dudley rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 08, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it
Each time I read Rumer Godden I am reminded afresh of how much I love her. She is a beautiful novelist. I was enchanted the whole way through this book. A more gentle ending would have fit the rest of the book quite a bit better, but there it is.
Dec 15, 2014 Melanie rated it really liked it
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
Aug 07, 2008 Mary Frances rated it really liked it
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
Mar 24, 2015 Gina rated it liked it
Kept my attention, but the narration in the present tense annoyed me, and the resolution seems problematic now.
Blue Jaypeg
Mar 07, 2015 Blue Jaypeg rated it it was amazing
This is a "house" book or a "timesweep" book. The arc spans generations, with reconciliation and redemption.
May 12, 2016 Stacy added it
One of my favorite authors-- as usual her work is great. A good read
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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
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