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My eyes are falling out and my reading chair is sagging from the countless hours I have spent seated with a copy of the Everyman edition of The Raj Quartet: The Tower of Silence/ A Division of the Spoils in my hands! The two books total 1019 pages in this splendid edition and the first two in the series The Jewel in the Crown and The Day of the Scorpion weigh in at 991 small print pages! Chunkers extraordinaire! Overall a great reading experience. I first read this magnus literary fiction opus on the final days of British rule in India way back in 1984. Also I have seen the excellent Jewel in the Crown drama series produced by Granada television in the United Kingdom. The story revolves around the rape of Daphne Manners a well connected British nurse in an abandoned garden. Her lover by whom she is pregnant is called Hari Kumar. He grew up in England, attended a tony British public school and speaks no native Indian language. The racial dimensions of their amorous relationship send shock waves through the tiny Anglo-Indian community. The incident is explored in great (sometimes numbing!) detail by Paul Scott (1920-1978) its brilliant author. I have summarized the first two volumes in an earlier review and now proceed to the final two: The Towers of Silence: The title refers to vultures who eat dead bodies. The main story is focused on Barbara Batchelor. She is an elderly Christian missionary teacher who is retired. Barbie decides to get a new job working for Mabel Layton a wealthy woman living at Rose Cottage, Sparks fly with Barbara must deal with Mabel's stepson's boozy wife Mildred. Mildred evinces all the patriarchal British attitudes to Indian natives. She is repulsive!The Laytons have two grown daughters: Sarah an intellectual and thoughtful young woman and her callow younger sibling named Susan. Susan marries Ted Bingham with what prove to be disastrous consequences.Sarah has suitors including Guy Perron a British officer and Cambridge graduate who specializes in Indian history from the 1830 to the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. A Division of the Spoils: This long 600 page novel deals with Indian politics as the British prepare to exit the subcontinent,. We also visit a small kingdom and meet a fascinating Russian exile named Bronowsky who advises the elderly ruler. Ahmed is the young son of a Muslim political leader who is a fascinating character. Subjects such as homosexuality are discussed. Susan makes a surprise choice which she announces her second marriage to Ronald Merrick. Merrick was once in love with Daphne Manners and hated her lover Hari Kumar,. Merrick is secretive, secretive and cruel. He is one of the most evil and memorable of evil characters in the broad span of English fiction. These four mammoth books are not easy reading! The main story of the rape of Daphne Manners is gone into in great depth which may bore some!. Scott's style is not the easiest to digest; several times I found myself reading over a sentence or brushing up on British colonial history rarely talked about in American education. A grasp of British and Indian history helps make the volumes understandable to Americans. Overall these books are the best fictional account of the end of British rule in India Historical characters are mentioned in the books including Gandhi, Nehru, Winston Churchill, Lord Louie Mountbatten and others. My second reading of the whole series was worth the journey! Once digested this amazing work will not be soon forgotten by the discerning reader. Excellent historical fiction; a true classic.
These two novels are captivating. The characters are so well-described that you can easily envision them, even if you have not seen The Jewel in the Crown on PBS. The role of Hari Cumar and Merrick are woven in so skillfully throughout these two novels. The injustices caused by race, class, discrimination and power are just as relevant today as when these books were published. The author makes the point that a privileged background does not ensure a perfect life. I also enjoyed the moral overtones used by the author, such as the mysterious demise of Merrick, after the sordid aspects of his life are revealed. The book also reveals the inability of many people to look beyond the surface. Thus, showing even the powerful can be manipulated by deceiving appearances. Fortunately, Sarah, Nigel, Guy and the Count, to a lessor extent, provide moral compasses through out the book. I have these novels three times in the past six months, find a new level of detail and intrigue in each reading.