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East of the Sun

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East of the Sun; Julia Gregson; Orion; Rs 295.
East of the Sun; Julia Gregson; Orion; Rs 295.

SUCHITRA BEHAL

The Raj continues to be a topic of fascination for the present generation of authors, be it romance, history fact or fiction.

The latest entrant on the block once again steeps itself in the lives of those Britishers who came to India and fell in love with it. India was considered the place to go to if you hadn’t landed a match in England. It was also a place where young women experienced love and freedom far away from the restrictions of a Victorian society.

Set in 1928, the book traces the tumultuous lives of three young women who meet prior to a voyage to India. Rose is a beautiful young girl, a trifle naïve, setting out to marry a young officer in India; with her is Tor, her friend, loud, impulsive and incredibly unhappy with her mother. For Tor, the trip holds the promise of getting away from "it all" and hopefully enjoying an adventure. And with them is Viva their chaperone.

While Rose and Tor get into their act on the ship, Viva is encumbered by the burden of also chaperoning an 18-year-old boy, Guy Clover, who seems strange to say the least. Unknown to the others, Viva is battling her own ghosts and is unable to connect to most people because of the events in her own life.

But it is Guy who tips the balance when he begins to behave strangely and gets into a scuffle with another passenger on board. When the ship docks in Bombay all three women find their individual choices have led them to different destinies.

What they make of this strange country, its people and their own fractious relationship is what this book is all about. East of the Sun certainly makes no literary pretences. In fact it is a thinly veiled Georgette Heyer kind of romantic novel, where the licentious lives of its female characters gives it a modern twist.


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