World War II has finally played itself out, and the British are leaving India. Through this vortex is spun a fictional plot of terror and politics that illustrates all-too-well the curse that still plagues India today. You can almost smell the mixture of dust, oil, and human sweat as the train pulls into Bhowani Junction.
©1954 John Masters (P)1989 Recorded Books, LLC
The author, who was unknown to me before listening to this novel, was a British officer who served in India and thus quite familiar with the environment described in his book. The events take place immediately after World War II but about a year before Indian independence. The focus of the story is on Anglo Indians, relatively privileged Indians who are partly of British and partly of Indian descent. Looked down on by British residents of India and resented by Indians of all stripes -- Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs -- the Anglo-Indian community faced loss of their privileged position when India gained its independence.
This is a well-told and fascinating story told from the perspective of two Anglo Indians (a man and a woman) and a comparatively unprejudiced British officer. John Masters is sympathetic with the position of both Indians and Anglo Indians, and he draws a convincing picture of the interactions among all three populations.
The story is beautifully narrated by three excellent readers, each presenting the story of one of the three main protagonists. The characters are believably presented by both novelist and narrators. It is a melancholy story, and readers like me are left wondering how Anglo Indians fared in the decades after 1947 when India passed from British to Indian control. For those interested in India and the story of Indian independence, well worth reading. This novel does not rise to the exalted quality of Paul Scott's "Raj Quartet" and its epilogue "Staying On," but it is certainly a well above average novel. Worth listening to.
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