Review: Rain Dodging by Susan J. Godwin

Posted July 7, 2023 by Stephanie in 3 Stars, History, memoir, Nonfiction, Review / 4 Comments

Title: Rain Dodging: A Scholar’s Romp through Britain in Search of a Stuart Queen
Author: Susan J. Godwin
Publication: October 17, 2023 by She Writes Press
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, History
Find it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play
Rating: 3/5★

Scholar Susan Godwin is hooked when she comes across the captivating story of Mary of Modena—a seventeenth-century Italian princess who was only fourteen when coerced into marriage with the future king of England, James II, yet went on to cultivate a court full of women writers in an age when female authorship was rare. How did Mary achieve such a feat?

Rain Dodging is Susan’s creative nonfiction account of the years-long search upon which this question—and her own unquenchable curiosity—launched her. Godwin travels through both space and time, solo adventuring through Britain in pursuit of truth and, in a spicy parallel arc, chronicling her own cluttered but resilient feminist path. From schizophrenic lovers to out-there musicians to one unhinged mother, Susan tells the story of her personal enlightenment even as she visits the palaces and manor houses in England and Scotland Mary once inhabited and pores over materials in Oxford’s stunning 400-year-old Bodleian Library, finding moments of transcendence and unexpected delight along the way.

Join Susan in this irreverent and illuminating journey—a fascinating account of the late Stuart monarchy, the progression of feminist history, and the unexpected connection between the two.


Rain Dodging is one of those books that don’t fit in just one genre. It was a blend of history, memoir and even a travel guide of some sort. I loved Susan J. Godwin’s writing, especially her descriptions of Oxford. She really made me want to visit there someday. I also really loved her mention of Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches when she passed All Souls College because it’s one of my favorite trilogies ever. It was just a small comment but it made me smile.

Another thing I enjoyed was learning about seventeenth-century Italian princess Mary of Modena who married James II of England at the age of fourteen. Previously I hadn’t know anything about her but the fact that she managed to have a court of female writers actually blew my mind and now all I want to do is read more about Mary of Modena.

This book is also very much about the author’s own personal journey through life. I do have to admit that I wasn’t as invested in these chapters quite as much as the ones about Mary of Modena or her fellow women artists but that’s probably just a personal preference as I usually enjoy history more than memoir kinda books.

Overall, Rain Dodging: A Scholar’s Romp through Britain in Search of a Stuart Queen by Susan J. Godwin was a fun journey to be on. I didn’t enjoy the whole book equally but I did discover the fascinating story of Mary of Modena and that made it a good read for me.



About the author:

As a fervent educator, writer, and freelance artist, Godwin’s world has been steeped in books, from Harold and the Purple Crayon—she couldn’t resist drawing on her bedroom wall, no matter how many reprimands—to her first job as a library book mender in her Shaker Heights High School basement, to teaching English at the prestigious University School of Nashville.

England has a mystical hold on Godwin. She is blessed to be an Oxford scholar. As well, the author has received writing awards from the University of Michigan, Middle Tennessee State University, and Bread Loaf School of English. Whether working as a teacher or librarian, as a free clinic mental health coordinator or a cocktail-waitress in country-western dive, she has adventured! Be it Cleveland in the 70s, L.A. in the 80s, or the South of the 90s, each place has impacted who she is, her curiosities, her intellect, her view of the world. Steeped in each, they helped develop a dynamic, diverse cultural perspective.

Though writing is her true passion, she is also a visual artist working primarily in oils and pastels. Her fearless daughter, Jesse, is a litigation attorney in Los Angeles. Godwin loves nothing more than visiting—an excuse for hitting the back roads in her mother’s old Mustang convertible. A columnist for The Tennessean newspaper once dubbed her “Renaissance Woman,” which close friends still call her with humor and affection.

Godwin’s home is outside of Nashville, on the banks of a winding Tennessee river, in a hayloft renovated by her “sweet, sexy” husband, Tony—with help from their rotty, Roady!

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