A perfect beach holiday calls for a perfect beach read. ‘The Midnight Rose’ ticked all the boxes and it does seem a bit churlish to relegate the book to the lazy days section of my bookshelf.
Lucinda Riley’s saga sweeps across England and India, from the 1920’s onwards, following the lives of Anahita Chavan and Rebecca Bradley. The two women have little or no connection until Rebecca, a successful American actress, is cast to appear in a period drama film to be shot at Astbury Hall on Dartmoor. Anahita, an aristocratic and educated Indian woman, had spent some time at the Hall with her son, Moh, many years before. When Anahita dies in India, she leaves a written account of her life to her great-grandson, Ari, in the hope that he will be able to discover the truth about what happened to Moh. Ari’s quest takes him to England, where he crosses paths with Rebecca and unravels the mysteries of Anahita’s life.
It’s a full-blown romance, with a touch of intrigue and some beautiful touches of character. Anahita, known throughout as Anni, is a respected and trusted Ayurvedic healer and trained nurse. Her strength provides a sense of gravitas to the story, which is clearly well-researched despite its fictional plot. There are elements of the supernatural, together with a strong message that each and every one of us should trust our instincts to guide our lives.The human connections and relationships within the story are complex, the ending bringing a couple of startling revelations! Kept me guessing right to the last paragraph.
This book is over 600 pages long and I was so desperate to know what happens, I read it in 2 days! Sure, I was on a sun-bed and had time to devote to its pages, but I don’t recommend you wait until your next holiday to read ‘The Midnight Rose’ – grab a copy and give yourself a holiday from reality by reading it now!
Sweeping Indian novels are a passion of mine – I cut my teeth on ‘The Far Pavilions’ when I was about 14 and swore for years afterwards that I would name my son ‘Ashton’ after the lead character! Well, that didn’t happen, but I have enjoyed many Indian sagas since then.
‘The Impressionist’ by Hari Kunzru, is the story of Pran Nath, born as the result of a fleeting union between an English officer and an Indian beauty. Circumstances see him ousted from his privileged home and catapulted into a series of lives from a male prostitute to a place at Oxford. He encounters characters from all walks of life, most of whom appear to be indifferent to him, and with whom he rarely forms any mutually meaningful attachments. Pran/Rukshana/WhiteBoy/Pretty Bobby and Jonathan Bridgeman (Pran’s various personae) are all ‘dodgy’ characters, drawn to the seedier side of life, quick to exploit opportunities. But Pran is essentially a blank canvas, a chameleon soaking up the hues of his surroundings, using the pale colour of his skin to his advantage. His quest to find his place in the world is at times violent, amusing and thrilling.
It’s not a quick read and the pace seems to slow, leaving the conclusion somehow unfulfilling. At times I was enthralled by the book, but towards the end found my concentration waning. Despite it having been critically acclaimed, ‘The Impressionist’ is not a novel that I particularly enjoyed.
The Sea Change follows the life stories of a mother (Violet) and her daughter (Alice), the former in WW2 Britain and the latter in 1970s India. Violet’s father is killed in a freak accident, and then she, her own mother and sister (Freda) are evacuated from the parsonage in Imber, Wiltshire, after the village is commandeered by the army as a training ground. There is a promise that the village will be returned to the villagers after the war. Violet is in love with a wanderer (Pete), but he is unable to commit to a stable lifestyle. 30 years later and on the other side of the world, Alice has been travelling through India when she becomes separated from her husband, James, following a devastating tsunami. Having survived the wave herself, she is faced with the traumatic task of combing the disaster area looking for him. The book alternates between the voices of Violet and Alice.
Recurrent themes throughout the novel are displacement, loss, betrayal and the sometimes overwhelming inability of families to communicate with one another. Secrets are revealed as the narratives of Alice and Violet converge towards the end of the book.
Online reviewers raved about this debut by its author, Joanna Rossiter. However, my feeling was that the book got lucky – it was picked as one of the 10 books for the ‘Richard & Judy Summer 2013 Book Club‘. Personally, although its well-written and seemingly well-researched (Imber is a real place and a tsunami hit Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu in 2004), the voices of Violet and Alice were identical. There was little or no differentiation between their tone, descriptive passages, dialogue etc, meaning I was frequently having to remind myself who was who!
Ideal for a long journey, or a holiday read, but not a book that is going to (sea) change your life. If you ask me in six months, I probably won’t remember a thing about it. Other than that it has an attractive cover photo. I always notice the covers.