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Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Heat and Dust (original 1975; edition 1987)

by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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8322210,861 (3.52)74
Title:Heat and Dust
Authors:Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Info:Touchstone (1987), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:20th century, booker prize, colonialism, fiction, indian, own, tbr, women

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Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1975)



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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
The narrator of this novel is a young woman who is exploring the footsteps of her Grandfather's first wife, Olivia in India. The story unfold of how Olivia fell in love with a local prince in 1923 and there is some mirroring in the 1923 story and the 1960/70s story in the places they visit, things that happen. I enjoyed the novel although it lacked engagement on some level. The narrative flits between the 'present' and 1923 and the story kept moving enough for it to be interesting. The heat and dust of summer in this part of India was well depicted. ( )
  Tifi | Jan 9, 2015 |
What an unusual novel this is telling the story of a hippy following in her step grandmother’s footsteps to India. So many viewpoints are broached from the traditional Indian one through Inder Lal to the totally selfish one as displayed by Chid – with many in between. Olivia’s viewpoint comes across strongly, supposedly from her letters to Marcia, her sister, but the text tends to go beyond this as when Olivia asks the head prefect-like Mrs Crawford if they will be calling on the Nawab too and we find her saying “firmly ‘That will not be necessary at all.’ She strode ahead with the step of one who has fulfilled a duty well, while Olivia, trailing behind her, looked right and left – probably to admire the Nawab’s flowers which were indeed splendid”. This little extract, I think, shows Jhabvala’s voice but the delicate insinuation that Olivia wants to see the Nawab despite Mrs Crawford’s definitive statement adds that touch of humour which adds life to the story.

Anyway, what holds our attention is the way Jhabvala has the two stories going at the same time: Olivia’s and the nameless narrator’s. I wonder why she keeps her narrator nameless. Olivia is, I think, the easier of the two to understand, dazzled by materialism and the status of the Nawab and so committed in the end to fleeing. The narrator is more puzzling – she seems taken in by Inder Lal seeing his eyes as being ‘full of melancholy and liquid with longing’ when Jhabvala has given the reader an understanding of his shallow concerns and then we have the narrator simply giving in to Chid’s sexual demands and finally getting herself pregnant so that she can go up into the mountains and continue to follow Olivia’s life. How odd it is to want to use your own life to recreate someone else’s!

This was a book that involved me as a reader on a number of levels, then. It was a picture of two eras, the colonial Indian one and the hippy era, one about which Jhabvala is mainly scathing although her protagonist, a hippy herself, does appear to be someone we can respect. ( )
  evening | Jul 8, 2014 |
Read during Fall 2001

A young woman goes to India to learn about her grandfather's first wife, following her journals and letters of 1923. The two stories are told in a wonderfully intertwined fashion until the past and the present begin to blend and join and you don't know which woman you are reading about when, suddenly and abruptly, it ends. There are only attempts to tie up a few loose ends, leaving a mysterious and enegmatic ending. Almost a successful one but I was swept in and then left there. Compelling but unsatisfying.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Heat and Dust tells the story of two English women in India; Olivia, a colonialist in the 1920’s, and, half a decade or so later, the granddaughter of Olivia’s former husband. Its a story with plenty of interesting characters amidst intertwining plots making it engaging and easy reading. ( )
  thejohnsmith | Jun 11, 2014 |
I opened Heat and Dust hoping that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's 1975 Man Booker Prize winning novel would provide a fresh take on a theme explored by Paul Scott in The Jewel in the Crown (the first book in his Raj Quartet series) and of course that classic of the cultural divide; E M Forster's A Passage to India.

In many of the tributes written about Jhabvala on her death in April 2013, she was described as a "cold-eyed observer of people and places" and a writer whose status as a non-native inhabitant meant she could view the country with unemotional detachment.

Detached and unemotional are indeed good descriptions for this tale of the cultural divide between colonisers and the natives they govern and of those who try to break free from conventions and restrictions.

The story is that of an un-named woman who travels to India in an attempt to unravel the mystery of her step grandmother Olivia during the rule of the British in the 1920s. She deciphers the story mainly from letters Olivia wrote to her sister and by visiting places where her grandmother lived. Gradually we learn that Olivia's story is one of disgrace and scandal Feeling smothered by the restrictions of the British way of life in India, she fell under the spell of a Nawab (an Indian prince) for whom she abandoned her husband . Fifty years later her grand-daughter, though more independent and less naive than Olivia similarly becomes seduced by India. She too crosses the divide.

The novel has none of the tension found in Scott's novel nor does it have the subtleties of A Passage to India. It doesn't so much end as simply peters out inconclusively leaving me feeling decidedly underwhelmed. It's not what I look for in a prize-winning novel. ( )
  Mercury57 | Feb 5, 2014 |
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Shortly after Olivia went away with the Nawab, Beth Crawford returned from Simla.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671646575, Paperback)

Set in India, HEAT AND DUST is the story of Olivia, a beautiful, spoiled, bored English colonial wife in the 1920s who is drawn inexorably into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in plots and intrigues. Olivia outrages the tiny, suffocating town where her husband is a civil servant by eloping with the captivating Nawab. It is also the story of Olivia's step-granddaughter who, fifty years later, is drawn to India by her fascination with the letters left behind by the now dead older woman, and by her obsession with solving the enigma of Olivia's scandal. A penetrating and compassionate love story, this brilliant novel immerses the reader in the heat, dust, and squalor of India, while providing a compelling mixture of the spiritual and the sensual.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:17 -0400)

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Set in India, HEAT AND DUST is the story of Olivia, a beautiful, spoiled, bored English colonial wife in the 1920s who is drawn inexorably into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in plots and intrigues. Olivia outrages the tiny, suffocating town where her husband is a civil servant by eloping with the captivating Nawab.… (more)

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