The Tailor’s Needle
Set in India in the 1930s, this novel follows the fortunes of Sir Saraswati and his three children, Yogendra, Maneka and Sita, who have all been brought up in Western style of education by British governesses. The novel examines pre‑independence India, the feeling of different people towards the British, and the movement towards autonomy. It slyly pokes fun at many aspects of British and Indian culture with a gently sarcastic style, as Sir Saraswati struggles to reconcile his admiration for the British with the ideals of Gandhi and the development of independent India.
The novel also looks at the role and status of women, contrasting the feisty and strong-willed Maneka with her more traditional mother and sister. The concept of caste and its role in the newIndia that is emerging is also considered.
The title refers to the belief of Sir Saraswati that his children should be like the needle of a tailor, passing through all kinds of cloth without discriminating, and this is a central metaphor throughout the book. The style is interesting and quite different. The dialogue is rather stilted, yet somehow this seems to suit the characters and the time well. It is something that the reader can adjust to quickly and it does not affect the enjoyment. This is an unusual novel that carries the flavour of its time and setting. Anyone who enjoys books about India would find this worth a read.