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China Court: The Hours of a Country House
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Group Reads > China Court: Ch. 1-4 (Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext)

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Hana | 1104 comments Mod
The chapter headings refer to the Canonical Hours--set times for prayer in the Christian liturgy. This is a good summary diagram of the Hours, along with Biblical sources: https://www.fisheaters.com/hours.html

Lauds (Ch. 1) is said at sunrise; Prime (Ch 2) at 6 AM; Tierce at 9 AM; Sext at noon.


Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Each chapter starts with an entry from a Book of Hours. This is a very interesting deep-dive into the history and artistry of these prayer books:
https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hou...


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 726 comments Thanks for the links, Hana! Appreciate the trouble you took.

In the early going I found this book very interesting structurally: it seems that the main character is the house and the various inhabitants over the generations are the supporting players. A change of pace as well to have the stations of the day be the organizing principle of marking time rather than decades or centuries. It's a little complex at first but I like the challenge. And the descriptive writing is wonderful.


Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Abigail, I've never read this so I'm going to avoid the spoiler thread for now, even though I'm moderating.

Also, just a warning for any other readers who are new to the book--don't go to the GR Reviews page for China Court. Someone put a spoiler in the very first couple of sentences of their review! I'm going to try to forget I ever saw it. :(


Barb in Maryland | 502 comments I have this in hand--a very ratty copy coughed up by my library system. Just hope I can cope with the small print!
The cover is a hoot!
China Court by Rumer Godden


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 726 comments Good idea to avoid the spoilers thread for now, Hana--for this book more than most, I'd say! Also avoid my review on Goodreads, though I put spoiler tags around the details.


Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Oh, oh! That cover :O

Barb, is that supposed to illustrate The Annunciation or The Visitation? /sarc


Barb in Maryland | 502 comments Hana wrote: "Oh, oh! That cover :O

Barb, is that supposed to illustrate The Annunciation or The Visitation? /sarc"


LOL!! All I know is she looks very like one of the Gabor sisters to me. ZsaZsa, maybe? It's the hair-do that does it! That cover is from 1962, btw...


Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Anything to sell books, Barb! My library 1960 copy is (probably thankfully) without a jacket.


message 10: by Susan in NC (new)

Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1415 comments Barb in Maryland wrote: "I have this in hand--a very ratty copy coughed up by my library system. Just hope I can cope with the small print!
The cover is a hoot!
China Court by Rumer Godden"


Yes, that is a doozy!


message 11: by Hana (last edited Jul 11, 2018 05:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
I finished Chapter 1-Lauds last night. I wondered why Godden chose to begin with Lauds rather than (as the prayer books do) with the night Vigils called Matins. The end of chapter 1 offers a beautiful symbolic reason: In the night, Peter looks back at China Court and sees a light in Mrs Quin's window. It is Cecily keeping watch, keeping the night Vigil for her mistress. Peter himself has a different watch to keep: a calf he had hoped to give Mrs Quin may be born that night.

So the first chapter is a full day, starting with a death at the break of dawn and ending with the night vigil and a possible birth. All through that day hours are offered up--not in a linear way, but winding forward and back through time--picking out moments and characters as if with gold leaf in the borders of an illuminated manuscript. Simply lovely!


message 12: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
This is a scene of The Visitation marking the prayers for Lauds from Book of Hours illuminated by French Renaissance artist Jean Fouquet. It is rather like the one described for Mrs Quin's prayer book.




message 13: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
This is a fabulous look at a Medieval Book of Hours from Christies auction house. You can enlarge the borders to see how human and animal figures were encorporated into the design.

https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/L...


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 726 comments What a beautiful description, Hana!


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 726 comments I looked up Robert de Bonnefoy and found only one, a flying ace in World War I who earned the Legion of a Honor. Considering that this was written before the Internet, it seems quite likely that Godden would not know about this historical person and made up the name (though I do wish my Dictionary of the Middle Ages were not in storage so I could check there) , if we can take the name as fictional, perhaps we can look to the meaning of Bonnefoy ("good faith") and see how it resonates through the book.


message 16: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Thank you, Abigail. I think the Book of Hours that Mrs Quin has is fiction and you are probably on target with the symbolism of the name.

I'm into Tierce, now. I am finding it quite easy to keep track of everyone, thanks to the handy family tree at the start of the book. Does your edition have that? Poor, poor Eliza. Born about a hundred years too early. I'm finding myself quite curious about many of the characters--there seems to be some mystery about Borowis and Ripsie, for example. And Damaris is a wonder!


message 17: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
I like the way the story is unfolding in layers across time.


Barb in Maryland | 502 comments I just finished Chapter 1 and I'm totally enchanted with the prose. And the description of the lark that opens Chapter 2 is so lovely.


message 19: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
I'm so glad you are enjoying it, too, Barb! Yes, the lark was a glorious moment.


Barb in Maryland | 502 comments Just want to say that Bella is not my favorite person. Just started Chap 4 and she is rapidly getting on my one nerve.


message 21: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
The only one I dislike more than Bella is Walter! They make quite a pair.


Barb in Maryland | 502 comments Oh yes--shudder to even think about them. Which is an indication of how well Godden sets up the characters and individualizes them.


message 23: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
The apricot tree incident in Lauds was hilarious. I was gritting my teeth all through Walter's lecture on mildew and 'stereum purpureum" and then Mrs Quin gets the last laugh--again, and again, and again!


message 24: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
One thing that struck me in Lauds was that Mrs Quin seem to have a touch of the Celtic gift of second sight--or perhaps with time "it all begins to get misty and confused" . Yet there is the moment when she has a vision of a "small figure, flying up the drive above the scudding legs in blue dungarees..." (view spoiler)


Elinor | 209 comments I am loving this book so far! I simply adore books about old houses and this one is a beauty!


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 726 comments Yes, it's lovely writing, isn't it?


message 27: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
I'm glad you are enjoying it, Elinor!


message 28: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments I'm really enjoying the odd rhythm of the tenses of the verbs. It's kind of like watching a movie with subtitles; a few minutes into it and it's not even noticeable. It's obviously a deliberate way of showing how the past and present are entwined, but I can't think of another book where it's used like this.

And, weirdly enough, as Godden hopes we will, the characters are not getting jumbled up generationally. Beautiful.


message 29: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments "Ripsie" reminded me of "Clipsie". Does anyone have any idea who she may have been?!? I have a vague memory of, maybe, a servant girl in what would definitely a Retro Read of some sort?


message 30: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
I had much the same reaction to the verb tense changes, Karlyne. I think it's very clever. I read somewhere that Rumer Godden was fond of experimenting with her writing style--I'd say this was one of her most resoundingly successful experiments.


message 31: by Hana (last edited Jul 23, 2018 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
It feels to me like ripples and reflections on the surface of a still pond.




message 32: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
What is on the surface? What is below?




message 33: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments We spent yesterday way up in the mountains, stopping by several crystal clear streams for "fishing" (ha! reading for me.), and it's amazing what's under the surface- if you look.


message 34: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
It is amazing! Have you seen these pictures of a kingfisher diving for (what else) fish?




message 35: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Okay, so I might be going off-topic a bit here....:D But I'll defend myself by saying that Godden picks her 'below the surface' moments with the skill of the kingfisher and also because from reading some of her other novels I deduce she was a keen bird and nature watcher.


message 36: by Hana (last edited Jul 23, 2018 11:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Also she wrote a wonderful semi-autobiographical novel called Kingfishers Catch Fire. I read it and loved it but it was during my time off GR so no review.


message 37: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments Hana wrote: "It is amazing! Have you seen these pictures of a kingfisher diving for (what else) fish?

"


That is practically unbelievable! We don't have kingfishers, but we do have Ospreys, and they've been clocked at ridiculous speeds taking fish out of lakes and some of the bigger rivers round here. I find birds fascinating, but I hate to see them in cages. Which might fit in with Eliza's life?


message 38: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
If Eliza is a caged bird then I'll counter with an end of book (view spoiler) I find the Eliza story arc's one of the most fascinating in China Court.


message 39: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments I'll wait til I finish to see if I agree! I'm trying not to gallop through it, but...


message 40: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments I had heard of the Way of St. James, and his saint's day, but not anything to do with making grottoes and, (thanks, Wiki) it was a London custom of children up until the 1930s. Charming tradition that I wish I'd known about when my kids were little. Light bulb! I've got grandkidlets coming Thursday!


message 41: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments (Which will be the 26th, but we can fudge a bit...)


message 42: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
I love Mr. Prendergast. None (view spoiler) He is clearly enjoying the proceedings.


message 43: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments Hana wrote: "I love Mr. Prendergast. None [spoilers removed] He is clearly enjoying the proceedings."

He's so beautifully sane!


message 44: by Hana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Quite! He and Mr. "Alabaster" quietly steal the show.


message 45: by Hana (last edited Jul 24, 2018 03:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
Oh no. I realize I'm posting in the wrong China Court: The Hours of a Country House thread! I'm getting dizzy between this and The Last Enchantment. No harm done, I hope...


message 46: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments I didn't even notice, because that's where I was, too! I'm refusing to finish this today, because I just want it to last longer...


message 47: by Hana (last edited Jul 24, 2018 06:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hana | 1104 comments Mod
I admire your discipline, Karlyne!


message 48: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments I was thinking that I hope I forget it as soon as I finish, so that I can pick it up again in a few years and be delighted all over again.


message 49: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1964 comments Karlyne wrote: "I was thinking that I hope I forget it as soon as I finish, so that I can pick it up again in a few years and be delighted all over again."

And it's been a few years, and I'm definitely going to give it a reread this summer! The Experiment with Time (Dunne, 1927) has give me impetus (ha! not that I needed any...)


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