The Book that Started it all

Hotel Les Oeillets, of The Greengage Summer
Hotel Les Oeillets, of The Greengage Summer

My Mother was a great reader. In fact both my parents were.

Every Saturday morning we’d get into the Austin and be driven to the local library.

All of us would come home with a pile of books, plus Mum would get the latest magazines such as Home & Garden, Vogue and Dad would have Saturday Evening Post with Norman Rockwell on every cover and my brother would get Popular Mechanics.

We loved it.

Apart from alI the Enid Blyton books, I remember reading every ‘Twin’ book – the American Twins, the French Twins, the Spartan Twins and so on.

My Mother had favourite authors and she’d read everything they’d write, and tell me about them.

The Greengage Summer with the original Illustation
The Greengage Summer with the original Illustration

In 1958, The Greengage Summer was published. One of many books by Rumer Godden.

I remember reading this quite adult book and being utterly fascinated by the 5 children taking care of themselves in a French Hotel in Epernay the Champagne district of France.

Their Mother was ill and in hospital and their stay in the small hotel of Les Oeillets meant they were a bit of a bother to the owner, her lover, and the other staff.

Not everything was as it seemed though, and much intrigue and growing up took place in the orchards bursting with ripe sun sweetened greengage plums.

Pic courtesy of CRO Magnon
Pic courtesy of CRO Magnon. The sun ripened greengages weigh heavily on the tree.

My imagination ran riot.

I wanted to go to France and live that way.

It would be a while. I was only the age of the eldest sister and lived 12,000 miles (no metrics yet) from any place like that. But I could dream.

It was the beginning of my passion for travel. For knowing how others live. Their cultures and traditions and their foods.

I love knowing what makes people the way they are.

I recently remembered The Greengage Summer and decided to order a copy online.

It doesn’t have the beautiful and evocative illustrated cover now, so I’ve recreated my own version. I cannot find any info on who did the original.

I’m completely absorbed again and wishing to be there in that sun drenched orchard and eating those greengage plums.

In May next year, in the South of France, I will find a place for my sketchers and I to picnic. We’ll lie there in the shade of the orchard trees, listening to the babbling brook, eating freshly picked, figs, pears, plums or whatever, and dream.

Thank you Rumer Godden.

7 Responses

  • Hi Erin

    What a beautiful dialogue about this book. Now I want to read it as well and will order it shortly.

    I hope you are having a wonderful Easter.

    Love Diana Earle

  • Hi Erin
    Thank you for this lovely story. I do appreciate all of the messages you send to me from time to time. I look forward to spending some time with the group in the future.

    David (Nelson Bay)

  • Hello Erin, Love your post! I LOVE this book and now have the chance to visit Epernay for work. Do you happen to know anything about the real locations of the story? Was the hotel a real place? What about the church they visit? Thank you! – Liz

    • Hi Liz,
      How did you find this post? It’s a couple of years old now.
      The Greengage Summer. I honestly don’t know if it was a real place or not. You could google the hotel name and location and see if anything rings a bell.
      I’d like to know what you discover.

  • Hi, I absolutely love the book Greengage Summer. I blog about literary inspired destinations and unfortunately Greengage Summer is fictional as is the hotel where it takes place otherwise I’d totally be planning a trip there. I see this post is a few years old, so I’m wondering did you go to the South of France and find somewhere similar to the book setting? Have you been to Epernay? Do you have any suggestions for where I might find a similar setting to the book?

    I also love your sketch!

    • Hi Elizabeth, So sorry I haven’t replied earlier. In fact I couldn’t find where to do all that. I go regularly to the Languedoc region of South of France. I’m mostly there from May to August and anyone who would like a few classes is welcome to get in touch. There is great accommodation in our village if you book ahead. Thanks for getting in touch

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