East of the Sun by Julia Gregson is a sweeping, historical romance. I think I enjoyed it mostly because it outlined a time and place I don’t think of much: in the 1920s at the end of English colonial period in India.
It follows Viva Holloway, who sort of cons her way into being a chaperone for Rose, who is on her way to India to marry a cavalry officer she has only met a few times; Victoria (Tor), Rose’s best friend, who is not only accompanying Rose but hoping to find a marriage prospect of her own; and Guy, a disturbed young man who has been kicked out of his boarding school and is returning home to his parents in India. The novel covers their journey to India aboard the Kaisar-I-Hind, their introduction (or, re-introduction for some) to life as an English expatriot in India, the beginnings of Rose’s marriage, Tor’s attempts at romance, Guy’s descent into madness, and Viva’s dogged determination to be independent.
In the background of the story is Gandhi and India’s quest for independence from the English. These young women and men are mostly oblivious to it, recognizing it only when it touches their personal lives and prospects. Even Viva, who is the lowest ranking (in terms of English class distinction) of the three seems completely unaware of the assumptions they all make about the inherent servant class forced upon all Indians, even the more educated.
The real beauty of the novel, to me, anyway, was the vivid picture painted of India in this time period. The culture, the smells, the sounds, and the daily life are all brought to life. There is a genuine sense of place, without any (that I could see) anachronisms or inconsistencies that you often see in historical fiction. The book is not plot heavy, and I didn’t read it so much to find out what happened next as to go back and visit the place. Honestly, prior to reading this book, India was not on my list of places I really wanted to see before I die: after reading this book, it is near the top.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Told You…” is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.