Skip to main content

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


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!

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!

Popular posts from this blog

Another giveaway

This time, the publicist at WW Norton sent me two copies of The Glass of Time , by Michael Cox--so I'm giving away the second copy. Cox is the author of The Meaning of Night, and this book is the follow-up to that. Leave a comment here to enter to win it! The deadline is next Sunday, 10/5/08.

A giveaway winner, and another giveaway

The winner of the Girl in a Blue Dress contest is... Anna, of Diary of An Eccentric ! My new contest is for a copy of The Shape of Mercy , by Susan Meissner. According to Publisher's Weekly : Meissner's newest novel is potentially life-changing, the kind of inspirational fiction that prompts readers to call up old friends, lost loves or fallen-away family members to tell them that all is forgiven and that life is too short for holding grudges. Achingly romantic, the novel features the legacy of Mercy Hayworth—a young woman convicted during the Salem witch trials—whose words reach out from the past to forever transform the lives of two present-day women. These book lovers—Abigail Boyles, elderly, bitter and frail, and Lauren Lars Durough, wealthy, earnest and young—become unlikely friends, drawn together over the untimely death of Mercy, whose precious diary is all that remains of her too short life. And what a diary! Mercy's words not only beguile but help Abigail and Lars

Six Degrees of Barbara Pym's Novels

This year seems to be The Year of Barbara Pym; I know some of you out there are involved in some kind of a readalong in honor of the 100th year of her birth. I’ve read most of her canon, with only The Sweet Dove Died, Civil to Strangers, An Academic Question, and Crampton Hodnet left to go (sadly). Barbara Pym’s novels feature very similar casts of characters: spinsters, clergymen, retirees, clerks, and anthropologists, with which she had direct experience. So it stands to reason that there would be overlaps in characters between the novels. You can trace that though the publication history of her books and therefore see how Pym onionizes her stories and characters. She adds layers onto layers, adding more details as her books progress. Some Tame Gazelle (1950): Archdeacon Hoccleve makes his first appearance. Excellent Women (1952): Archdeacon Hoccleve gives a sermon that is almost incomprehensible to Mildred Lathbury; Everard Bone understands it, however, and laughs