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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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8462410,632 (3.54)76
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 23 (next | show all)
An eloquent and beautifully poised novella comparing and contrasting the experiences of two English women in India. The unnamed narrator travels to India to investigate and tell the story of her father's first wife, a bored housewife who has an affair with a local prince. Their two stories are alternated and have many parallels, as well as contrasts between colonial and independent India. It is easy to see why this book won the Booker prize. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 12, 2015 |
I listened to this book which was narrated by the actress Julie Christie. Christie also played the main character in the movie made from the book. I thought she did an excellent job as the narrator.

The book is about an English woman, Anne, who goes to India to discover more about her grandfather's first wife, Olivia. Her grandfather and Olivia lived in Satipur in the 1920s shortly after their marriage. Olivia fell under the charm of the local Indian ruler, the Nawab. With not much to fill her days Olivia spends her time with the Nawab and an English man attached to the Nawab's household, Harry. When the hot season comes and the other English women go to the hill stations Olivia stays behind.

We learn all this in a series of flashbacks from letters that Olivia wrote at the time. In the present time Anne also falls under the charm of India and an Indian man. The narrator seems to be fated to duplicate Olivia's life but perhaps her life will be more successful than Olivia's.

The women's stories are the main thrust of the book but the background of India under imperial Britain and then under home rule is fascinating. Only 50 years have passed between the parallel stories but what a difference in a country. I thought this was at least as interesting as what Olivia and Anne experienced. ( )
  gypsysmom | May 29, 2015 |
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 |
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:48 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

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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