20 October, 2020

Adela's Shadow

Apart from cringing at the occasional inaccuracy, Indian readers will find themselves longing for recognisable characters

Adela's Shadow
That the Raj remains a source of fascination to British readers is evident in the presence of this historical novel on recent UK bestseller lists. Indian readers, on the other hand, generally prefer that British novelists who choose our shared history for their setting should restrict themselves to the British experience in India, focusing on the bewildering effect India often has on the uninitiated, as E.M. Forster does in A Passage to India and Paul Scott in his Raj quartet.

This boundary is one that Gregson respects: hooking her story to the ‘fishing fleet’ and following the fortunes of three Englishwomen who set off for 1920s India in search of adventure, husbands and, in the case of one, a tragic family history. What makes these characters more endearing than those of M.M. Kaye’s novels are that, far from being the archetypal snooty memsahib of Raj fiction, the main protagonist here is poor and struggling, reminiscent almost of a modern-day backpacker trekking across India with foolhardy courage.

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