by Rumer Godden
The Peacock Spring was slow to get into, but the more I read the more curious I got about it. The story is of two girls in their early teens who get abruptly pulled out of boarding school to go live with their diplomat father in India. It soon becomes clear to them that their governess is incompetent at teaching, and is in fact their father's mistress. The older girl, Una, is indignant at the sham, while the younger one, Hal, couldn't care less. Hal is thrilled with the sightseeing and parties the governess is trying to distract them with; Una is frustrated at being denied her studies. The better part of the first half of the book is about this subtle battle going on between the girls and the governess, made more interesting by the fact that all the servants resent the woman too, and the girls' father is pretty much oblivious to it all. But then something curious happens. Una meets a gardener who also happens to be a poet, and whose friend is an accomplished mathematician. Suddenly she finds a way to circumvent her governess and continue her studies. What she doesn't really expect is to fall in love...
While this story is not exactly tender, nor are most of the characters extremely likable, there was something about it that kept me intrigued. The further I got the more tangled it all became, until in the end Una was in quite a sticky situation. The ending was quite sad. I found myself feeling sympathy for characters I really didn't like in the beginning, and getting furious at others that I had previously admired. They're all quite deep characters, with layers and ulterior motives and secret thoughts and dumb moments, just like real people... This is not one of my favorite Rumer Godden books, but one I'm certainly hanging onto regardless. I wonder when I'll pick it up again, what new things I might see in its pages.
rating: 3/5 ........ 243 pages, 1975
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