Monday, February 16, 2015
Books - again
I have quite a few books about India, from fiction to cookbooks to other non-fiction. For several years, I read books about the British Raj in India, in particular about women's experiences during that time, gained from diaries etc. It makes for fascinating reading. Far from being fainting Victorian damsels, these women were fearless, intrepid travellers in far flung outposts of the British empire. One such lady comes to mind, Harriet Tytler, a brave soul who was the last white woman who remained during the Delhi siege of 1857. She was living in the armory with her young child, and survived to tell the tale.
I could ramble on for quite a while about this topic, but today I wanted to point out a few books of fiction that I've enjoyed reading, relating to India.
At the moment, I'm reading "Tell a thousand lies" by Rasana Atreya. It's about a young girl raised in rural India by her grandmother, and how her and her family's life is affected by a corrupt and ruthless politician. It's a good read, and very believable. It depicts the daily life of thousands of Indian women, whose lives are laid out along predictable paths from birth - school (not too much though), arranged marriage, babies, supporting the in-laws and husband. And heaven help you if your family can't provide sufficient dowry. On my trip to India I met very highly educated men, who also had highly educated wives, but the wives still needed permission from the in-laws to pursue a profession. Producing an heir is much more important.
Another book I enjoyed is called "Saree" by Su Dharmapala. In this book, six stories are intertwined about a saree maker in Sri Lanka. I never knew that sarees are such amazing social devices, for want of a better description. One learns about sarees as well as the gods and goddesses that govern so much of life in these parts. The six stories come together beautifully at the end,
I think it was M. M. Kaye's "The Far Pavillions" that got me started on the Indian subcontinent. I can read that book again and again, and I also have the old video with Ben Cross and Amy Irwin. The other M.M. Kaye book about India is "Shadow of the Moon", another good read about the British Raj. Both books are fiction and could be called historical romance. And who could forget "The Raj Quartet" by Paul Scott. These are four books set in the latter days of the Raj and follow the lives of a number of different characters. The books are called "The Jewel in the Crown", "The Day of the Scorpion", "The Towers of Silence", and "A Division of the Spoils". Some might remember the excellent drama series of "Jewel in the Crown". I recommend these to lovers of historial fiction.
Finally, there are some rather more 'fluffy' books about India with which you can while away an afternoon. One is Thalassa Ali's 'Paradise Trilogy, "A Singular Hostage", "A Beggar at the Gate", and "Companions of Paradise". The books are about a young Englishwoman who travels to India in the 1850s, and her adventures in the Punjab and Afghanistan. Good read about the "fishing fleet" during the Raj (young women sent to India to find eligible husbands). An oldie but goodie is "When the Rains came" by Louis Bromfield. It's basically about a minor scandal in the town of Ranchipur, before the monsoon arrives. The book was also made into a movie with Tyrone Power and Myrna Loy -loooong ago!