Claire by Carol Edgerley describes the life and loves of Claire O’Hara, a young woman living in colonial India in the 1910s. The story begins with her first contact with men at the age of 17. Living with her French mother, with whom she has a difficult relationship, Claire is eyeing up the prospects of romance in Calcutta society. Unhappy with her family situation, she is eager to break out and so she accepts a proposal lacking passion and credibility. The book then relates Claire’s unsatisfactory marriage that becomes one of convenience with open adultery, emotional distance and awkward sexual encounters.
The story is the sad portrayal of a woman in search of happiness and self-fulfilment at a time when morals and society were more restrictive and less advantageous for women. Based on real people related to the author, the story possesses a strong element of memoir; it appears to be the truthful re-telling of a life as it has happened, rather than conveying a specific life lesson. Claire and her decisions are not always likeable, she is not a made-up heroine, but a woman of flesh and bones who needs to make the best out of her life.
For fans of straight historical fiction the book might not be for them, as it is more focused on relationships and romantic desires rather than descriptive historic detail and events. But for readers who enjoy a story for the sake of a good story, the personal tragedy is moving and powerfully conveyed, serving to illustrate society and its rules at the time. This is a story that deserves to be told.