303The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden
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Title: The Kitchen Madonna
Author: Rumer Godden
Publisher: Bethlehem Books Date
Published: Feb 2010
Marta is unhappy. For quietly aloof Gregory and his sister Janet, Marta, with her thick Ukrainian accent, her good cooking, and her stories, is the anchor of the house. Mother and Father, both busy architects, are gone all day and sometimes at night. Marta is always there; and the children, sensing her unhappiness, do not want her to go away. When they find out that Marta desires a "good place" in the kitchen, nine-year-old Gregory, with precocious young Janet in tow, sets out to find her a Ukrainian icon in busy, modern London.
Overwhelmed, frustrated and even humiliated in the search, Gregory does not give up nor retreat into his silence. Rather, with each difficulty Gregory begins to draw from his own unexpected and untapped well of faith and resourcefulness. Master storyteller Rumer Godden deftly brings to life a portrait of a lonely boy discovering the creative power of love.
About the Author
Margaret Rumer Godden, born in 1907 in Sussex, England, spent most of her younger years in India, where her parents gave her and her two sisters many opportunities to mingle with Indian people while educating their daughters at home. Both parents' gift of storytelling would kindle similar gifts, developed even further, in their children. In those early years there was all the time in the world to think, Rumer Godden said. Even our lessons were at a slow pace. *
Later, in England, young Miss Godden was encouraged in her writing talent by perceptive instructors at a school called Moira House. Having taken training in dance, Rumer Godden returned to India and opened a ballet school for both British and Indian children. After an unhappy marriage that left her in financial debt she and her daughters retreated to a cottage in the mountains of Kashmir. There she worked hard writing novels, drawing from the many experiences of both her worlds, European and Indian. By the 1940s Rumer Godden was becoming an acclaimed author. In the course of a lifetime she would write over 60 books and be named a Member of the Order of the British Empire. In the 1940s Rumer Godden returned to England. Here she began to write books for children with all the craftsmanship she dedicated to her adult novels. She is perhaps best known for her stories about dolls, a series, that is, according to May Hill Arbuthnot, unsurpassed in variety and charm, for her dolls have distinct personalities and in her books they talk and act in character (Children and Books). In The Kitchen Madonna we see Miss Godden's perennial interest in those individuals with a special contribution to make who do not fit easily into simple categories. Ruth Hill Viguers writes, Rumer Godden's intuitive understanding of children that gives such special life to her books about children was never more evident than it is in The Kitchen Madonna (A Critical History of Children's Literature).
Continuing to write, and succeed, in many fields including adaptation to the screen, Miss Godden remained in the British Isles, becoming a Roman Catholic, marrying happily a second time, and retiring eventually in Scotland. She died in 1998.
* Information and quotations, except where noted, are drawn from the profile in Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults Vol 3, Detroit, Gale Research, Inc, 1993; and from the profile by Jean Russell in Twentieth Century Children's Authors, Chicago and London, St James Press, 1989.