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The River

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  587 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Facing harsh adult realities, a young English girl in India must leave childhood behind, in this masterful tale from a New York Times–bestselling author.

The Ganges River runs through young Harriet’s world. The eleven-year-old daughter of the British owner of a successful jute concern, she loves her life in Bengal, India, on the river’s edge, so far removed from the
Kindle Edition, 106 pages
Published December 20th 2016 by Open Road Media (first published 1946)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Diane Barnes
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

Rumer Godden's powers of description are so good she made me homesick for a place I've never been, and nostalgic for a childhood I never experienced. A novelette about a season in Harriet's life in India when she makes the transition from child to "real person" status.
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novella about an English child growing up in India, beautifully written and full of evocative description of life in that country. There is no plot and really only one event of any significance. The theme of the book is growing up as experienced by the main character, Harriet, who is absolutely charming. The main interest of the book is the beautiful way it is written. I have only read a few works by Rumer Godden but I will be looking out for more.
The River is a coming of age novella set in India. Harriet, the daughter of a jute factory manager, is just on the cusp of growing up--one moment a child, the next thinking thoughts and asking questions that would challenge many an adult. The time is perhaps during World War II, but as Godden says in the introductory paragraphs, it could be this war, or the war before that, any war, any place. There is a timeless quality about the setting, a garden by the edge of a river. Like the garden of Eden ...more
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novella creates an unforgettable combination of unique personalities and sublime conversations among them. But centered in all is Harriet. Harriet who is at the cusp of girlhood/womanhood's brink. Her sister, Bea, is a focus but also had, for me, a retreating and nearly spectral aspect toward connections. Her brother is one of the two "littles" (Vickie a round cherub is the other) and this leaves Harriet with a cork tree, her favorite place in a "hole" and knowing that it will all soon ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Subtle, atmospheric writing which captures the inquisitive nature of childhood with wonderful ease. Thoughtful, skilled and moving. A tender gem.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written, The River reminded me of the river in Jayber Crow or Peace like a River, it is a metaphor for change, slow change that happens to all of us.

The River is somewhat a coming of age, in a sense of the girls are at the age transitioning from girlshood to womanhood. More then that, it is about transformation and how we need die to self in order to be reborn and fully live .
Alun Williams
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Rumer Godden had a long and prolific writing career, but her centenary last year seemed to pass unmarked. If you are not familiar with her then you have missed one of the few truly great British novelists of the twentieth century.

The River, which was later filmed by Jean Renoir, is a very short and, in parts, sad book, but in many ways typical of Rumer Godden's work: set in India, the main characters children, the theme growing up, and how to be perceived by adults as a person rather than a
Catherine Clarke
Jan 28, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This wasn't an enjoyable read. The characters were irritating and annoying and I couldn't feel any connection to them. Through most of the book, I couldn't sense any genuine kindness. In the afterward, it said it held humor but I didn't laugh anywhere in the book. The writing was choppy, too.
Manan Sheel
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Today, I was wondering while reading this book, that if the description in a book is good (in this book, it is so so good) and if a book has so much of subtle heart into it, like this book, then, we start caring about the characters and the events and the places and everything, as if a deep, soft, subtle, existential connection has been made between our soul and the soul of the writer, as if, the river of our soul is delighted with all the gentle, soft and sweet touches which the book offers. ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is like a coming-of-age story, but for a younger age range than the usual type of coming-of-age story. Set against the backdrop of a beautiful Indian garden, the story follows the main character, Harriet, who is on the cusp of becoming a teenager and who finds herself having to reconcile with all of the changes that growing up entails.

I adore Harriet. She's a precocious girl. Always disappearing to write her poems/stories/thoughs, always asking questions no-one wishes to answer, always
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Way, way, way up high on the list of books that capture childhood. Similar to Jane Gardam's heroine in A Long Way from Verona, the heroine of this book is a young writer full of questions, puzzling over all she sees and leaping forward with flashes of insight. Here's one of many:

[After an argument among members of her family:]

"Funny," said Harriet to herself, "The world goes on turning, and it has all these troubles in it." She looked down the garden to the tea-table, where Victoria still sat.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second time I have read this beautiful book, but I have watched Jean Renoir's movie version many times.
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"that we go on being born again and again because we have to, with each thing that happens to us, each new episode."
"What is an episode?"
"It really means an incident . . . between two acts."
"I don't understand."
"Call it an incident, a happening. With each new happening, perhaps with each person we meet if they are important to us, we must either be born again, or die a little bit; big deaths and little ones, big and little births." Pg. 44

Unputdownable- clear- simple- smooth- deep...
Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The River is a story of childhood in India, much although not all the story is a tribute to Rumer Godden's own childhood. In her preface to the novel Rumer Godden explains how the novel came to be written.
Four British siblings, who have been brought back from school in England are living at the side of a river, just along the road from the jute works. This is their world, the garden, the house, the servants, Indian festivals, the jute works and Captain John - who was once injured in the war.
Nose in a book (Kate)
This novel (novella really – even bulked out with short stories, an introduction and a preface it’s still barely 200 pages) explores childhood, and specifically that moment when you wake up from the idyll of innocence and start to see the rest of the world and understand that growing up means change.

At the start of the book Harriet is the classic middle child (though she’s actually the second of four, but Victoria is still very young) – caught between her terribly sensible older sister Bea and
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india
Beautifully told story of a European girl named Harriet coming of age in Colonial India. About Life, growing, death, birth, love, so many first experiences, poetry, beauty and presence of nature.

My grandfather knew Renoir and loves his films. We finally watched The River over Thanksgiving and I enjoyed the movie very much, despite its simplicity and datedness. I figured I should read the book, I've had my grandmother's old copy sitting on my bookshelf for years. So I read it in 3 days and the
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Harriet, the main character, could have been a creation of Lucy Maude Montgomery. The story was a little bit darker than an LMM creation but the passion and imagination of Anne with an "e" lived in Harriet. Or Pat of Silverbush or Emily of New Moon.

It was a tad creepy that a man old enough to be an army captain (view spoiler)

Well written quick read, enjoyable and touching.
Christina Baehr
Not her best. Wonderful writing, but I just didn't feel like this novella rewarded my investment, or the author's, to be frank. I look forward to reading more of her better novels. So far I've tremendously admired In .this House of Brede, and enjoyed An Episode of Sparrows. The Dolls House is one of the best children's novels ever written, in my opinion. I'm thinking maybe Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy will be next.
Dec 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was very short and very vivid. A book about a young girl living and growing up in India and the tragedy that befalls her family. As with all of Godden's books, you truly grow to love and cherish the characters she brings to life with her prose. I found myself wishing Icould flash forward and find out what happens to this family 10 years later...
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some really beautiful and lyrical language, but not much in the way of plot.
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, india
Harriet is at the cusp of adolescence, with her older sister quickly growing away from her, and her younger brother too much of a child to play with, while she herself ricochets between ages in a way that confuses her. She lives an idyllic life in India with her happy family and a much-loved and well known landscape. But then something terrible happens, and her world changes forever.

I fell in love with Harriet and her joy and fury and questioning of the world. This is a quick read that repays a
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of the "River Journeys" discussion at Tuesday Academy, I found this book very easy to read. I definitely want to read more of Rumer Godden's books. She writes of growing up in British colonial India. The characters are easily related to and though the very first paragraph presages loss, you want to know about what happens, in fact the book leaves you wanting even more.

Though it not about a journey on a river, the river runs next to the house and plays large in the analogy to life itself.
Lynn Dixon
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This English narrator returns to her beloved India as an accomplished writer. She fondly remembers her years spent there when she was seven to twelve years old. Her father was employed in India and she lived with her mother, sisters and brother, Bogey.
The reader gets a true feel for the Indian landscape and the daily movement of the people as she describes key events from that period of her life. Captain John came to stay with them after a serious war injury. Harriet tells the story and she
Sadie Slater
I read several of Rumer Godden's novels in my teens, and loved her delicate capturing of the transition between childhood and adulthood, so when I found a couple of her books in the Oxfam bookshop recently I couldn't resist buying them. The River is a very short book, the story of Harriet, the second child in a European family living on the banks of a river in East Bengal (based, as the introduction makes clear, on Godden's own childhood home), during the course of an Indian winter which is the ...more
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What it lack in length it more than makes up for in punch. Delightful descriptive passages of a childhood in India rich with smells, sounds and bustle. Powerful insights into the main character of young Harriet her relationship with her siblings and that general bewilderment that comes from growing up and not quite fitting in anywhere, no longer exactly a child but not yet an adult. But having to face very adult decisions whilst still hardly more than a child and the very dreadful lifelong ...more
Another of my book for each year since birth - in this case a reread.

This book works very well as a movie but as a book I had two problems with it (1) in a few cases there seemed to be inconsistencies in the time line and (2) for the symbolism, I often felt I was being hit over the head with the obvious. However, it is particularly interesting for its occasional use of what would now be considered potentially racist language and for the ease with which it mixes culture in a way uncommon for the
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A lush coming-of-age novella based on the author’s childhood in India. Tracing a season in Harriet’s life as she navigates being too young for her older sister, and too old for her younger siblings, The River conveys important lessons about life, death and growing up. It’s a beautiful little sketch of an era.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't finished it yet (as of writing this), but it's made me think I'll need to reevaluate my opinions of Rumer Godden. I wasn't a fan of Black Narcissus, and avoided everything else. But this has real energy and soul to it- not in a twee way, but as a much deeper understanding of the interior lives of people and she renders it with elegance and sophistication. A deceptively complex story.

Maybe we just needed time and distance. A small reminder not to discount writers on a single work.
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Margaret Rumer Godden was born in Sussex, 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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“Sometimes,' she said, remembering that morning, 'I write poems that are taller than I am” 4 likes
“So many grown-up people seem to be nothing very much.” 2 likes
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