In honor of the US publication date of this novel, which is today, I'm reposting this review in the hopes that you'll go out and buy it!
This book wass initially recommended to me on Amazon UK because I purchased The Forgotten Garden there as well. 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'm 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. PS--Don't you love the US cover?