The Lady and the Unicorn

The Lady and the Unicorn, by Rumer Godden

The Universe wants me to know all about the Cluny tapestries.  That is my conclusion, after several months in which I have met them at every turn.  It started with a miniature embroidery pattern that I happen to want and have not yet bought.  A friend of mine ordered me to read the Tracy Chevalier novel, which I haven't gotten to yet, because I ran into this Rumer Godden one as well, but it's on the shelf.  I read Rilke (post pending!) and he makes them a feature.  Their presence in the Harry Potter films came up. These tapestries are everywhere, I'm telling you.  Even in Calcutta, which is where Godden sets her novel--rather unexpectedly I must say.

Rosa and Belle are twins; their family occupies one part of a large tumbledown Calcutta mansion.  They are poor and their mixed race limits their social possibilities in this 1930s Raj setting.  Belle, ambitious and ruthless, sets herself to climb by becoming the mistress of a rich man.  Rosa, less worldly, falls in love with a young and newly-arrived Englishman.  While he loves her--in his fashion--tragedy is inevitable.  But first they discover a sundial, hidden under mounds of jasmine, in Rosa's garden.  Stephen realizes that the worn emblems carved on the house walls are the same as those in the Cluny tapestries: a flag with three crescents, a lady and a unicorn.  And Rosa has seen a lady in blue, who has a little fluffy dog named Echo.

It's mostly really sad.  Godden doesn't give us any fairy-tale ending.  Good novel, though.  It's one of her earlier works and apparently not easy to come by, but it so happened that my library had a copy.


  1. Yeah, it must be hard to come by! I've never even heard of this book, and I absolutely cherish Rumer Godden. HMMMM.


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