Can’t Leave India

ATWIB 2013

It was wonderful to realize that I could get two novels about India into this year by counting Midnight’s Children for Pakistan instead. I’m really glad to have done it, since I got to visit the same time period, but this time at least partially seen through the eyes of British ex-pats who chose to stay on after independence. Having read Rushdie’s description of the dawn of independence in Mumbai, I now got to read about the same night in a small hill town. Somehow I have never read the Raj Quartet, but now I will have to. I really enjoyed Paul Scott’s writing and his ability to create characters who could captivate and move me. Here’s my review on Goodreads:

Staying OnStaying On by Paul Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Tusker Smalley died of a massive coronary at approximately 9.30 a.m. on the last Monday in April, 1972, his wife Lucy was out, having her white hair blue-rinsed and set in the Seraglio Room on the ground floor of Pankot’s new five storey glass and concrete hotel, The Shiraz.

These are the opening lines of Paul Scott‘s sequel to The Raj Quartet, which, having just so enjoyed reading about the end of Tusker and Lucy’s life together, I will have to read to learn about their earlier days. Staying On is the tale of two things: Lucy and Tusker’s complex marriage in their aging years and life in the independent state of India for the few British who chose to “stay on” in the small towns where they had been stationed prior to independence. It is a study of culture and class, and of love and disappointment, seen variously through the eyes of Lucy and Tusker Smalley, their servant Ibrahim, and Mr. Bhoolabhoy, the manager of the hotel from whom the Smalley’s rent The Lodge, a cottage annex.

Scott captures the complexities of his characters, both their internal struggles and their attempts to negotiate their relationships with partners, friends, and associates, with both compassion and humor. These are characters you can easily love in all their frailties, with some delicious exceptions, such as Mrs. Bhoolabhoy, whom you can easily delight in hating. Scott effectively plays with the timeline, starting at the end, then jumping back to the events leading up to Tusker’s death, then finally returning to this scene and the time which followed. I took a certain pleasure in the process of feeling the second approach to this scene, to living through it a second time, now with a greater sense of its context, and then following the tale to its conclusion. This novel was a pleasure, yet another case in which the Booker Prize has helped me find a wonderful novel.

Progress report:

Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 25
Asia/Mideast: 6 (Israel, China, Afghanistan, Japan, Iran, Pakistan)
Africa: 2 (Madagascar, Libya)
Europe: 6 (England/UK, Ireland, Monaco, Poland, Spain, Italy)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 5 (US, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica)
Oceania: 1 (Fiji)
South America: 1 (Brazil)
Extra: 4 (Scotland, Greece, Holland, India)

Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 17 (AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, KS, LA, MA, MI, MN, MS, NM, NJ, NY, PA, RI, WV)

1001 Books (goal 52): 18

A to Z challenge (must be completed in order–26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!): 19
Authors: Auster, Beinart, Chandler, Donovan, Eugenides, Faulkner, Grau, Hosseini, Ishiguro, Joyce, King, Lewis, Murakami, Nasar, Ondaatje, Preston and Childs, Quinn, Rushdie, Scott

About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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One Response to Can’t Leave India

  1. vanbraman says:

    I really like the title of your post. You Can’t Leave India because you are Staying On 🙂

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