A Breath of Air
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“We are such stuff as dreams are made on: and our little life is rounded with a sleep,” cries Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest—from which play Rumer Godden took the story of this novel, A Breath of Air. In cast of character and plot structure, parallels are certainly present—Mr. van Loomis is the novel’s magician and ruler; Charis, his literate, island-bound daughter, is Miranda; the playwright Valentine is Ferdinand; and the exiled, brutish Mario is Caliban. Yet the novel transcends its own source of inspiration by its poignant—at times even unsettling—development of such themes as the limits of civilization, the need for liturgy, and the inexorable facticity of the natural order.
He had sat on his island away from the tides that had washed the world; now he was caught up in a larger tide that was even more ruthless: the tide of time.
A perceptive combination of myth and parable, A Breath of Air is a distinguished literary effort, evocative of the imaginative genius and luminous artistry synonymous with the storytelling of Rumer Godden.
Rumer Godden (1907–1998) was among the most distinguished English authors of the twentieth century, writing dozens of novels and children’s books, as well as an assortment of non-fiction works. A convert to Catholicism, she placed the mysteries of God, salvation, and sin at the center of her most popular works, among which are Black Narcissus, Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy, and In This House of Brede.