Companions of Paradise

Written by Thalassa Ali
Review by India Edghill

Continuing the saga of A Singular Hostage and A Beggar at the Gate, Englishwoman Mariana Givens has been separated from her Punjabi Muslim husband and the mystical child they have adopted. With her aunt and uncle, Mariana is part of the English expedition to Afghanistan (1840-42) – an expedition that will end in disaster for the occupying force. In Kabul, Mariana watches helplessly as the British military fails to the fierce, freedom-loving Afghans. There, too, she finds spiritual solace in a Muslim mystic. And when the British expedition ignominiously flees Afghanistan, it is Mariana who arranges for the escape of her relatives – and whose hard-won inner strength reunites her with her beloved husband Hassan Ali Khan. (Note: of the approximately 16,000 people — military and civilian; English and Indian; men, women, and children, who retreated from Afghanistan at the end of 1841 – a disorderly rout through some of the worst mountain passes in the world in the depths of harsh winter – one man survived to reach India. A few others were taken hostage by the Afghan tribes and later ransomed.) An interesting and evocative book.