By Katherine Kincaid
I was excited to read this book. I am an ardent reader of historical fiction especially that set in the 19th century.
And what a disappointment this was. Despite author’s creation of a supposedly liberated, empowered, enlightened modern heroine who is, of course, English. And she comes to India to take up the ‘white woman’s burden’. She has to reform it from the scratch! the superstition, the heat and mosquitoes, absence of a dining room in hero’s house, his children speaking only the native tongue and wearing colourful clothes, the tales of love pavilions (more a product of author’s imagination. There is a description of how women of the harem bathe the heroine – and after all the ministrations that are described in detail so fascinating to the Victorians, the women are dismissed as backward, ignorant, poor etc.) Indian justice system which has to be replaced by a ‘better’ British one and so on. For a moment, one wondered if it was really a 20th Century text or a throwback to the 19th century. The Indian characters, especially the women, are hardly given any voice. One of the women, the hero’s Indian mistress – kills herself by a snake bite after learning about the English woman. Talk about stereotypes!
But even this liberated English heroine is put in place as the property she is contesting actually turns out to be the hero’s and she is left with nothing but gratitude that the man loves her.
Read, if you want to learn what all was wrong with colonial romances set in India.