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Review: East of the Sun, by Julia Gregson

I have to admit, I picked up East of the Sun from Amazon UK on a sort of blind buy. It was recommended to me because I purchased The Forgotten Garden. Well, one thing turned into another late one night... and all of a sudden I found myself clicking “proceed to checkout.” You know how it is.

I actually rather glad I made this impulse purchase. Set in 1928 and 1929, East of the Sun is the story of three women who go to India: Rose, a young woman going to get married; her best friend Tor, going to be her bridesmaid and hopeful that she’ll find a husband herself; and Viva, a young woman accompanying them on their voyage in order to reclaim a trunk that once belonged to her parents. Also in her care is Guy Glover, an unstable sixteen-year-old, who’s just been kicked out of boarding school and who quickly becomes a risk to Viva and her charges.

Once the women get to India, nothing is what they expected it to be. Rose’s marriage is hardly a bed of roses; and, although the number of English men in India overwhelms the number of women, Tor can’t quite get her act together in order to find a husband. As for Viva, her plans to pick up her trunk and leave India derail pretty quickly as Guy Glover's antics get out of hand.

The novel is not so much about India as it is about the British in India and the so-called “fishing fleet” of young women who went there to find husbands. The first third of the book is devoted to the voyage out to India (in first class) on the Kaiser-i-Hind, and I thought that part of the book was particularly engaging. The characters are all finely drawn, and I found myself rooting for each of them. It’s a very lively and dramatic book, and I couldn’t put it down. The story mostly belongs to Viva, but my favorite character above all was Tor—her personality was much more endearing than that of the other characters.’ The only setback to this novel is the Guy Glover storyline, which kind of detracts from the story. In all, however, Julia Gregson does a wonderful job of capturing the last days of British colonization in India with a fine eye for detail. So far, this book has done well in the UK, with, apparently, 300,000 copies printed as of August 4.

Also reviewed by: Reading Adventures, Foreign Circus Library, S. Krishna's Books, A Life in Books

Comments

Lezlie said…
Isn't it fun when a completely unplanned read turns out to be so good? I have found some really amazing books that way, too!

Lezlie
Marg said…
I recently borrowed this from the library. I am looking forward to reading it, as I love book with an Indian setting.
Iliana said…
Ah, I love it when an impulse book purchase ends up being such a delight. This sounds like a good read.
Danielle said…
I think we have really similar reading (and buying) tastes--I would also be very tempted to get that book on description alone. I might just have to order it myself!
It would be so easy to mistake this book for one of those others, lush, rich people having dramas played out against exotic backgrounds. This one was so much more. It was people of all economic groupings, for a start, and it wasn’t just us, it was the Indians, shown in so many different ways. Everyone commented on everyone else, rightly, wrongly. I understood so much more about the cultures of us in the ‘20s, off on ‘the fishing fleet’ to find husbands; and of what India was like at the time – Gandhi and times changing, us changing [or not in the case of some], the Indians changing towards us, in so many ways large and small. There is so much detailed historical analysis and research clearly done in the writing of this book, and all doled out during the story, so that its so much easier to understand this complicated period, and from so many different points of view.

Characters are wonderful – Viva, the bluestocking author, who wants to learn all about India and be a writer – her road is rough, and all her mysteries come to haunt her until she is healed at the end. Rose who comes to India for the equivalent of an arranged marriage, neither she nor her prospective husband Jack truly understanding that their lives before and after marriage will be utterly different; there was no getting to know each other, no blending…they cut each other’s lives in half and bled through the book until a sort of truce was reached, unhappy but its where they’re left. psicologo online Tor, who is desperate to get away from her controlling mother, and stay in India after accompanying Rose out. She is full of life and enthusiasm and ends up happy, for which I am so glad, with the wonderful boyish Toby, who understood so much – there’s a very affecting story about a small bird he tells.

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