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The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet,…

The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1) (original 1966; edition 1998)

by Paul Scott

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1,014228,402 (4)1 / 235
Title:The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, Book 1)
Authors:Paul Scott
Info:University Of Chicago Press (1998), Paperback, 462 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott (1966)

  1. 00
    A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (mcenroeucsb)
  2. 00
    Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh (mcenroeucsb)
  3. 01
    A Passage to India by E. M. Forster (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: These two novels bear close relationship in setting and circumstance.

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This was a hard one to get into! It's written as a compilation of journal entries, letters, and interview extracts interspersed with more traditional narrative, kind of a House of Leaves-esque found document novel. What's frustrating is that all of the writing concerns the relationship between 2 people (well, 3, really) but we don't get to hear directly from either of them until about 250 pages in, which is where the book finally started to really grab me in more than just a "this is valuable for me to read even though it is a bit of a slog" sense.

I'm interested to read the next installment in the series to see where exactly this is going. ( )
  okrysmastree | Oct 17, 2014 |
It took me a very long time to get into this. I think it benefits long sustained periods of reading, not a 10 minutes before bed type of reading. It also puts me in mind of the question"where does a story start" as this attempts to portray the events leading up to the rape of an English girl in India, during WW2. And it starts, in one sense, a very long way away from the story it is trying to tell. It uses a device of later investigation to present memories, letters, journals and answers to questions asked by an invisible enquirer. That this person is not identified left me intrigued. The cast of characters was very interesting, a real rag bag of people and types. And some people surfaced to say their bit before disappearing again. Knowing this is the first part of a quartet, I do wonder if they will be fleshed out later. ( )
  Helenliz | Jul 2, 2014 |
Six-word review: Interwoven narratives personalize 1940s British India.

Extended review:

The first volume in the acclaimed Raj Quartet weaves a complex web of causal and peripheral connections among people and events during the final few years of British rule in India. The rape of a young Englishwoman by a gang of Indian toughs is posed as a precipitating incident, but not an isolated one. Imperialism, racism, presumption of privilege, social class, military versus civilian mindsets, and cultural identity are among many themes that this weighty novel explores while illuminating a tumultuous place and period in recent world history.

I watched the miniseries based on this four-part novel on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre when it was first shown in the 1980s, and parts of it remain vivid in my mind even after thirty years. The principal characters in the novel have the faces that the TV production gave them. From this distance, I think my memory of the series enhances my experience of the novel rather than diminishing it. Naturally the novel treats the subject to far greater depth and breadth than is possible in a television script, even a long one.

After a pause for some lighter fare, I'm looking forward to continuing with volume 2, The Day of the Scorpion. ( )
1 vote Meredy | Jun 29, 2014 |
The Jewel in the Crown is the first book in the much acclaimed The Raj Quartet. Set during the British Raj of India, the first book in the series tracks the events that unfolded in the town of Mayapore. The story revolves around young Kumar, an Indian brought up in Britain, but who returns to India under after his father's death, friendless, penniless, in a country he has nothing in common with, other than the colour of his skin - the identity crisis he faces as neither the British in India, nor the Indians recognise him as one of their own - and Daphne Manners, a young British girl who finds herself caught under extraordinary circumstances, culminating in her tragic rape, even if her story doesn't end there - indeed, the strength of her character shines through after the aforementioned tragedy. The book has various other remarkable characters, be it the Rajput born princess, Lili Chatterjee, the British officers (both pro and anti Indian), a couple of remarkable ladies, who serve India and Indians in their own ways, one through education, the other by providing healthcare to those for whom no one, not even their fellow countrymen care.

I started this book, with a very skeptic frame of mind, like I usually do whenever reading books based on India, by either Indian authors (for playing to the stereotypes) or foreign ones (for just not getting it right). The premise of the book was specially an explosive one, even if the current generation of Indians blame the politics and policies of the last 60 years of Indian governance rather than the 150 years of British dominion (including 90 years of the British Raj). The author, however, managed to avoid taking sides by presenting the story from the point of view of the amazingly well conceived characters. Through the eyes of those characters, the author also managed to represent the conditions, relationships, political tendencies, etc. of both the communities - whom time had done more to separate than integrate, into an atypical master-servant relationship.

The author also, doesn't excuse the snobbery, high handedness and divisive politics of the British, while also highlighting the anti-social elements of the native population - the kind for whom events of instability, riots, are opportunities for rapine, loot and plunder, indiscriminately, if I may add. The fact that such elements are part of the Indian society, even in today's time and age, makes their existence in those times all the more believable.

The author only makes passing references to the Indian freedom struggle and the main characters of the same, which probably wasn't a bad idea. All considered, a well written account, rich in the depth of the characters as well as the plot of the story in all its complexity. ( )
4 vote PiyushC | Apr 26, 2014 |
First published in 1966, The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott explores powerful themes of racism, class and colonialism in the complex environment of 1942 India. The British Empire is struggling with the war and in holding India under their control. The Japanese have defeated them in Burma, and here in India, Gandhi seeks non-violent non-cooperation in his “Quit India” campaign. The author paints a vivid picture of suspects being interrogated, idealists silenced and dissenters tracked down.

The story captures certain events about people caught in these turbulent times, as a handful of characters react to a vicious attack on an Englishwoman. Miss Daphne Manners was the victim of rape. The event remains shrouded in mystery as the victim does not seem very interested in identifying her tormentors. Of course she has her own personal reason for remaining silent. The story unfolds from various angles, from character to character, from first person to third person, with letters, diaries and interviews all being included.

I found this a fascinating look at an intricate period in time as it explores not only the described chain of events but also the political and social views of the many characters. At times overwhelming but always interesting and educational, I found I had to concentrate intently on the material in order to keep things straight in my mind. The author writes beautifully, but often the length of his sentences made the reading difficult. This is the first book in the Raj Quartet and I found it to be colourful, layered and intense. ( )
3 vote DeltaQueen50 | Mar 15, 2014 |
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Imagine, then, a flat landscape, dark for the moment, but even so conveying to a girl running in the still deeper shadow cast by the wall of the Bibighar Gardens an idea of immensity, of distance, such as years before Miss Crane had been conscious of standing where a lane ended and cultivation began: a different landscape but also in the alluvial plain between the mountains of the north and the plateau of the south.
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Table of Contents:

Part One - Miss Crane
Part Two - The Macgregor House
Part Three - Sister Ludmila
Part Four - An Evening at the Club
Part Five - Young Kumar
Part Six - Civil and Military
Part Seven - The Bibighar Gardens
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0226743403, Paperback)

"Ah no, waste no pity on young Kumar. Whatever he got while in the hands of the police he deserved. And waste no pity on her either. She also got what she deserved."

August 1942. World War II is reaching its apex, with the conflict consuming almost all of Asia and Europe. In Southeast Asia, the Japanese have driven the British army out of Burma and are threatening India, where Britain's beleaguered forces find themselves facing an increasingly hostile Indian populace tired of decades of unfulfilled promises of freedom. On a dark monsoonal night in the town of Mayapore, amid an outbreak of anti-British rioting, a gang of Indian men rape a young British woman. Through this rape, we are introduced to a cast of characters engulfed and subsequently carried away by the storm of events. Paul Scott's The Jewel in the Crown is part historical novel, part mystery, part love story, part allegory. But to reduce it to any of these elements is to miss its irony, poignancy, and beauty. Full of complex characters and rich in atmosphere and symbolism, this is a novel that works on many different levels.

The events unfold through the eyes of a varied cast of characters--both British and Indian--united by their inability to escape the straightjacket of race and social roles, no matter their class, education, or political views. This is particularly excruciating for the rape victim and the young Indian man accused of the crime. These two are drawn to each other by their alienation from the roles they are expected to play. Englishwoman Daphne Manners finds herself increasingly estranged from her countrymen, while Hari Kumar, an Indian who has lived in Britain for all but two years of his life and is so anglicized that he doesn't even speak Hindi, can't abide his native land. Their struggle with the identities and constraints that society imposes on them and the manifestations of their conflict form the core of the novel, providing the timelessness and richness that make it one of the great novels of the 20th century.

The Jewel in the Crown, originally published in 1966, is the first of the Raj Quartet, the sweeping epic that looks at the collapse in the 1940s of British rule in India. It was followed by The Day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence, and A Division of Spoils. --Jonathan King

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:09 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In August of 1942, a young Englishwoman is raped in an Indian garden, and her fate and that of an elderly English schoolteacher entwine.

(summary from another edition)

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