One Last Look

Written by Susanna Moore
Review by Pat Maynard

When their father dies, Lady Eleanor and her two siblings, Henry and Harriet, find themselves in dire straits financially until Henry is appointed Governor-General of Calcutta. As a result, in 1836 the three of them travel to India, accompanied by their cousin. The novel proceeds in journal form as Lady Eleanor records their experiences while there. Involved in an incestuous relationship with Henry, whom she has always idolized, Lady Eleanor begins seeing him through a more critical eye as she witnesses his and his peers’ continual attempts to impose the English culture on India. Henry’s arrogance is only exceeded by his ignorance when it comes to executing the duties of his new post. Thus, when he comes up with a grandiose but fatally flawed scheme, the resulting adverse consequences come back to haunt them all.

This is a character- rather than a plot-driven novel, so it won’t appeal to everyone. Although the author’s main characters are beautifully drawn, none of them are particularly likable people. Based on actual memoirs, the history is excellent while the overall storyline is a depressing one. And how could it be otherwise, considering its subject matter – the suppression of a country and its people. Regardless, the author paints colorful and vivid word pictures throughout of India’s lush beauty, the conspicuous consumption of its “haves” as opposed to the deprivations of its “have nots” and, underlying all, the callousness and contempt of the occupiers for the native inhabitants and their customs.