Friday, June 5, 2009

The Mousewife

by Rumer Godden
New York: NYRB, 1967/2009. 46 pgs.
The New York Review of Books is doing the world of children's (and adult!) literature an extraordinary service by reissuing classic titles in sturdy bindings. The Mousewife is a tender but unsentimental story of a mouse going about her wifely and motherly duties but all the time feeling that something is missing. When a dove is captured and kept in the house where she scavenges for crumbs and bits of fabric, she visits the cage in her hunger to take some peas that the dove refuses to eat, in its sorrow. By and by the two become friends and the dove tells the mouse about the larger world. "The dove told her how [the wind] blew in the cornfields, making patterns in the corn, and of how it made different sounds in the different sorts of trees, and of how it blew up the clouds and sent them across the sky." The book has a lovely, reflective ending: one may go through life doing what is required and expected, but add to that beauty and peace.

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