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Review: The Far Pavilions, by MM Kaye

Where do I begin with The Far Pavilions? It’s an epic love story with a complicated, suspenseful plot, and any review I might write wouldn’t do it justice. But I’ll try.

Ashton Pelham-Martyn is born in India in 1852, the son of a famed British scholar. When his father dies, Ash is entrusted into the care of his maternal uncle. However, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 changes the course of his life, and Ash goes into hiding with his foster mother, Sita. Later, Ash becomes a servant in the royal court at Karidkote, under the crown prince. While there, Ash meets Juli, and his life changes once again.

MM Kaye was born in India and lived there for a significant part of her life, and it’s clear from this novel that India left an indelible, positive mark on her. India in the time of the British Raj fairly oozes from all 955 pages of this epic novel about love that transcends culture, caste, religion, and other factors. Kaye does a fantastic job of describing the differences between each of the Indian city-states, and then contrasting them with the oh-so-different British, who don’t quite understand (or even try to) the ways of the natives.

There are lots of long, descriptive passages in the novel, which sometimes slows the novel down; but at other times, those passages would heighten the suspense factor for me. My other criticism is that the part of the book that takes place in Afghanistan seemed to detract from a nearly perfect storyline. But this was the kind of book that I had to read in small chunks because of how emotionally draining it was. And also, because I didn’t want it to end.


Amanda said…
Oh thanks for this review! It looks so good. I'll definitely have to read it now.
Teddy Rose said…
I really liked this book too. I read it a few years ago with my Classics book club. We read it over an entire summer and read and discussed it in chunks. I think that really added to what I got out of it.
Emotionally draining, yet you didn't want it to end. That is quite a combination! It sounds interesting. I read the God of Small Things and I got a little bit of the complexity of India from reading that. I would love to develop a deeper understanding.
Darlene said…
This sounds really good-great review. Another one for the wish list.
valentina said…
oh my god I read this book when I was 13 or 14 and I loved it! it was the first time that I read about how wives in india had to die on the pyre too if their husband died!i was shocked.
But I do remember skipping few pages of boring descriptions of fighting towards the end!
Serena said…
sounds like an interesting book despite the trouble you had with it.

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