Daughters of India
This is Jill McGivering’s third novel, all informed by her journalistic career in Asia, and featuring sympathetically-described women. Set in India just before World War Two, this story tells the contrasting tales of Isabel, the daughter of the local British head man, and Asha, a poor Hindu girl whose father once worked for Isabel’s family. Asha becomes embroiled in the bitter struggle for Independence, whilst Isabel yearns to stay in the country she calls home. I grew up in colonial Africa, and many of the sounds and smells—and attitudes—described were very familiar indeed; I was transported back many decades. We are taken from the hustle, noise, and squalor of Delhi, to the aching beauty of the Andaman Islands, as both young women try to come to terms with the life-shattering changes happening all around them. Asha’s life is ripped apart as first her father, then political leaders she admires, are executed by the British justice system. The outbreak of war only serves to escalate the violence. Isabel is torn between loyalty to her Indian childhood friend, fear for the man she loves, and the loss of the way of life her father upholds.
You will be locked in the tense, heat-filled days before the monsoon, when bloodshed is a release from tension; then dance in the streets when the rain finally comes. You’ll feel the warm waves on your shoulders as you laze off a jungle-lined beach in the Andamans. The rank smell coming from prison cells will offend you. For a deeper understanding of both sides of the Colonial debate, and for a truly immersive piece of descriptive writing, I would thoroughly recommend this book.