Kingfishers Catch Fire


As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame

Gerard Manley Hopkins

This design looks to have come straight out of the 1930s, but it dates from 1953.

Rumer Godden is another seemingly underestimated writer: Kingfishers Catch Fire has a similarly beguiling and suspenseful atmosphere to that found in Black Narcissus. Here’s the information from the flyleaf…

The scene of the story is Kashmir, a land so fabulously beautiful that it is said no painter can paint it, no poet write its verse. Sophie, a young English widow with two children, goes to make her home there; she finds a tumbledown house in a valley carpeted with flowers below the Himalayas and settles down to live there, quietly, frugally, poetically, but soon discovers that this jewel of a place she has found for herself is not inertly precious but alive…


6 thoughts on “Kingfishers Catch Fire

  1. this is a stunning cover! My parents had a Reader’s Union book club edition of this and it was one of the first ‘adult’ books I read as a child. I always remember it. She also wrote Miss Happiness and Miss Flower which was my favourite early childhood book. I tracked it down again a few years ago!

    • I liked The Mousewife – it had great illustrations, I tracked that down – New York Review Library had reissued it (they do great editions of old favourites). I read the Reader’s Union version with the zodiac on the cover, then I found this – no competition!

  2. I meant to leave a comment the other day, then got called away… I love the kingfisher cover – so beautiful! (And what a lovely coincidence re. Gerard Manley Hopkins influences on our recent blog posts!)

    Rumer Godden is a writer who has served up quite a few treats for me over the years. I have vivid memories of the 1970s television adaptation of her children’s novel, The Diddakoi. As you will remember, when we had to wait a whole week for a next episode of a series (instead of the 24 hours it seems to be now) you could really relish the build-up of anticipation. And when the day arrived, I remember rushing home from school on a high of excitement to find out the next turn in the story… There was a real sense of event – your one chance to catch it, or miss it!

    I really enjoyed her novel ‘The Dark Horse’ – and ‘Coromandel Sea Change’ was a real treat (both set in India). I’ve also got a volume of her memoirs, but haven’t got round to reading it yet.

      • Thanks for the link – that was great to read. I’m hoping to blog about the series and book sometime, as there’s a bit of a story attached to it for me, woven through the passing of the years… You’re right; those children’s drama series definitely fertilised the imagination of a generation… In the case of this particular one, I even named one of my dogs after the main character many years later! ‘The Moon Stallion’, televised around 1978, was another great series I loved – full of the mystery of the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy.

        Tracing back along the trails of childhood reading and tv/film viewing, it’s fascinating isn’t it, how all sorts of patterns start to emerge. Paths taken, interests developed – a whole web of stuff…

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