Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Jewel in the Crown

Paul Scott's Jewel in the Crown, the first book of his Raj Quartet, is one of the best novels I've read in a long time.  The book circles around the rape of Daphne Manners in the Bibighar Gardens during anti-British rioting.  Through this lens Scott looks at India at the end of the British Raj period from a variety of perspectives -- Hindu activists, British policemen, military and civil leaders, etc.

Impressively, none of them comes across as a "type"; instead, each person springs to life as an individual caught up in the affairs of the time.  (The closest to an exception is the British military commander, who feels like a creation that Scott didn't have much empathy for -- he's a bit too close to the blustery stereotype we have of that sort of soldier.  But even he feels pretty realistic).

I'd go on, but there's no point to just piling on superlatives -- this was a fantastic book, and there isn't much else to say.

No comments: