The Kitchen Madonna

by Rumer Godden

Hardcover, 2010



Call number

Child > Fiction


Ignatius Press (2010), Edition: First, 103 pages


For Gregory and his sister Janet, Marta, with her Ukrainian accent, good cooking, and stories, is the anchor of the house. Sensing her unhappiness, 9-year-old Gregory, with Janet in tow, set out to find her a Ukrainian icon in busy, modern London.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Spare and unsentimental, Rumer Godden's The Kitchen Madonna is a short children's novel of astonishing emotional power. Isolated and withdrawn, Gregory's own family find him cold, but buried beneath his reserve is a heart capable of being touched, and a spirit of compassion waiting to be awakened.
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When his new nanny Marta, a Ukrainian refugee, longs for a "good place" - a space in which to keep an altar and an icon of the Virgin and Child - Gregory sets out to provide her with one.

This is a deeply satisfying story, on so many levels. Gregory's ingenuity in creating a home-made icon will appeal to anyone who has ever felt that "where there's a will, there's a way." His gradual emotional awakening, and growing sense of connection to those around him, is a joy to observe. Never didactic or overdone, Godden's gentle narrative invites the reader to consider the connections between respect and compassion, and the fact that we do not need to share (or even understand) the spiritual beliefs of others in order to enter into their feelings. A beautiful, beautiful book.
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LibraryThing member TadAD
Heartwarming without being sappy, this is a wonderful story. How unfortunate that it's out of print now. If you see it in a second-hand book shop, definitely give it a try.
LibraryThing member judithrs
The Kitchen Madonna. Rumer Godden. 1967. I knew I had to read this book when the lady who has taught me to “write” icons told me about it. It is a children’s book set in England. Marta, the housekeeper fascinates Gregory and Janet, but Gregory worries about her because she seems so unhappy.
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One afternoon Marta describes her mother’s kitchen in the Ukraine, and explains that every kitchen had a special place, a shelf or the top of a cabinet for a special picture—an icon of “Our Lady and the Holy Child.” Gregory decides Marta must have an icon to make her happy. When he realizes he cannot afford one, Janet encourages him to make one. “An icon is more than a painting. It is meant to be a link between earth and heaven, a window opening onto sacred things.”
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Original language


Original publication date

1967 (Viking)'\; 1966 (Ladies Home Journal Magazine)

Physical description

103 p.; 6.25 inches


1932350233 / 9781932350234
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