Thursday 30 October 2008

A Japanese Dolls House

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden

This is only a slip of a book about the creation of a Japanese dolls house. Why does it linger so in my imagination? Is it the details of the construction which are given in the appendix? I think not - I would not be entranced by a story about a model railway. Is it the charming way in which she breathes life into two small plaster dolls? Probably not - I don't return to the doll stories of Enid Blyton.

I think that it is the insight into family life between the wars when children were left to fill their own time without being distracted by TV, computers, after school activities and endless homework. They could run behind a bike to the hardware shop to buy wood and strong glue with their pocket money and come home to a workshop of clamps, fretsaws and drills. A place where it was possible to become friends with an elderly book shop owner and your teacher came to tea. So much freedom which seems unimaginable for the closely supervised children of today.

Here is a sample to whet your appetite:

The dolls were to have a feast too.

"A tea party" said Nona.
"A tea ceremony" said Miss Flower

Belinda's dolls-house food was a cardboard ham glued on a plate, some plaster fish glued on another and a plaster pink and white cake. "That won't do at all," said Nona, and she went to see Mr Twilfit to find out about a Japanese feast. In the end a beautiful little feast was set out on the low table: a bowl of rice made of snipped-up white thread - nothing else was fine enough; a saucer of bamboo shoots made of finely chopped grass; a saucer of pink and white sugar cakes made from crumbs of meringue cut round; and some paint-water tea.

"Green tea?" asked Belinda.
"Japanese people drink green tea" [said Nona]


Limecat said...

She must also be thanked for writing Black Narcissus, the film of which I love.

I'd forgotten all about her. Thank you for reminding me.

Allison said...

As I am raising my own little ones, I ofte think about how things have changed, even since my childhood not so long ago. When I was a little girl (maybe 9?) mom used to tie a bag lunch of PBJ sandwiches to my saddle and I would ride my pony off down the road and be gone all day. Not today!

Allison said...

OH! And thanks for adding me to your blogroll? I am truly honored.


trash said...

I was going to say 'I hadn't read this but I loved 'The Good Earth.' ' but then I remembered it was by Pearl Buck.

Shall add this one to my list, thanks for the recommendation.

A time to dance said...

As a teacher, who recently went to the 18th birthday party of a student and received a stern glare from senior colleagues for doing so!, I long for the simpler life where each pupil has to fill in about 6 pieces of paper before they can go on a school trip to the local theatre.
I feel that everything is so complicated for our young people now - they suffer from stress and depression - they are children for goodness sake! In my opinion they are result of a must do better, must have more, higly competative society. Or at least thats how I find things up here. I know I am only 44 but I don't remember my childhood being so complicated - but then I did grow up in the country.
I shall now carefully climb down from my orange box, with one hand on the wall for support, taking care not to knock the gout ridden left foot - I am going to be fun hobbling round the fab and funky shops of York today arent I?
By the way I always loved the film Greengage sumer with carry grant I think...I have an old 1950's copy of the book somewhere.....happy days

dottycookie said...

See, I knew there was a reason I liked you so much - that is one of my absolute favourite books from childhood. How I longed to come down to breakfast and find Little Peach waiting for me in a peach, how I wished I could find a roll top pencil box for storing tiny doll quilts. Now I have so many images flooding into my mind - Nona washing her hands before going to the bookshop, Tom being so generous with his time while protesting he was too busy, even little Belinda with her bright pink cheeks blowing meringue crumbs arond the tea table. Ahhhh!

Eleanor said... are a tonic for my imagination!

P.S. By coincidence I linked yesterday to your previous post about your daughter's dolls house.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved that book.

Anonymous said...

Ooh I love Miss H and Miss P. Didn't know it was still in print. Also, love The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden.

pursehappygal said...

I remember this book and loved it! I actually made a dollhouse with my dad.It was the Chinese version of a Japanese dollhouse! We even found actual gofun dolls that were similar to the look of Miss Flower and Miss Happiness. The dollhouse was later donated to the Japanese heritage center in our hometown.I would like to build another one day when I have room.But I'm still trying to find a roll top pencil case too!