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The Raj Quartet, Volume 3: The Towers of…

The Raj Quartet, Volume 3: The Towers of Silence (Phoenix Fiction) (original 1971; edition 1998)

by Paul Scott

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571717,406 (4.01)1 / 96
Title:The Raj Quartet, Volume 3: The Towers of Silence (Phoenix Fiction)
Authors:Paul Scott
Info:University Of Chicago Press (1998), Edition: Univ of Chicago PR ed., Paperback, 399 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Towers of Silence by Paul Scott (1971)



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Author Paul Scott rewinds the clock a bit and starts The Towers of Silence in 1939, at the beginning of the war. Set in the hill station of Pankot, the main character is Barbie Batchelor, retired missionary, who, as a paying guest of Mabel Layton, is living at Rose Cottage with her. Although Barbie is proud of her middle class roots, she is not entirely able to fit in to the upper Raj society and is treated much like an outsider, however, she is a unique position to observe the actions that flow around her.

This is mainly a book about women and the impact of the war upon them, once again we come into contact with some familiar faces from the previous books. Mildred Layton and her daughters Sarah and Susan are dealing with the interment of their husband and father as a prisoner of war. We learn more about Susan’s marriage, and both the attacks on Daphne Manners and Edwina Crane are again brought into focus and we once again meet Captain Ronald Merrick. The character of Barbie Batchelor was very life-like with her ability to be both naive and innocent but then at other times she could also be very astute at reading people and their motives.

Though after three books now, I am a little tired of the rehashing of these events, I do find the author’s style of repeating certain occurrences and recording them through the perspective of different people very interesting. Each time a little more is revealed, a little like peeling back the layers of an onion. I did find this a much slower read than the previous two books. I also felt this one had a darker overview as these women struggle to keep up their illusion of gentility, one can sense that their way of life is slipping away. I am in awe of the author’s vision and look forward to seeing how he ends this monumental saga. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jul 6, 2014 |
Paul Scott's series continues to provide me with succour for the miserable fact that there are no sequels to A Passage to India. I've stopped trying to look as hard as I would with Forster for something below the surface. Scott can be read and enjoyed pretty much as-is, but that's good enough for me. I like these portraits of social entanglements and cultural politics in this setting and the depth of character, even while the pacing lacks momentum and we've seen most of this before.

I don't know if I'll remember, looking back, why I marked this novel as above average. I don't think it will be especially memorable except in a vague sort of way, but the grade will be to remind me of the sheer pleasure I took in the reading. I very much like this author's style: the slow way he unrolls a scene or reveals a secret, a kind of langour luxuriated in like one would feel in the exhausting heat of India. The setting is brought into sharper focus through the style, and this atmosphere I experience as a reader makes the motivations of the characters feel perfectly clear and logical. They are a world, an era and a culture apart from me, yet I'm made to readily understand all that they do and be intrigued or even excited by their resolutions and slightest actions.

This is all to the good since three quarters of the novel is spent on covering old ground from new perspectives. It's been a while since I read "Day of the Scorpion", which led to a mixed situation: helpful reminders of what had gone before, but not always seeing what information was new. Barbara is a great central character for being so different on the inside from her exterior, and I fully sided with her in contrast to Mildred's airs and self-centered intolerance. Teddy's was a less inspired choice of perspective but his section is relatively short.

There's many references to death in this novel, as implied by the title, all of which seem a metaphor for the passing of the Raj into antiquity that everyone in this story senses coming. I wouldn't rank the entertainment value as better than average in standalone form, but within the Quartet's context this third piece ties together and summarizes all that has come before and definitively sets the tone for the imminent passing of an age. ( )
  Cecrow | Apr 14, 2014 |
I didn't like this as much as the previous one. I guess it's because the point of view was from someone who was a relatively minor character before. But I saw a beauty in the way Barbie Batchelor's inner voice - much louder than her actual voice - was shown to analyse situations around her, especially towards the end of the book. A sadness descends upon the reader after it is over - the events described are, for the most part, a repeat of the previous book, and the reader knows of most if not all the happenings. But only with this book does the full extent of those changes upon everyone's lives become clear. ( )
1 vote milti | Dec 14, 2011 |
The events are mostly seen through the eyes of Barbara Batchelor, the retired missionary who becomes companion to the old Mabel Layton in Rose Cottage, Pankor. It is perhaps the saddest of the Raj quartet so far (I don't want to give spoilers, for the story see the account of each book on wiki), and most of the Brits are really insufferable, especially the ghastly Mildred. Sometimes the style is OK, at others I really want to send a bag of commas to Paul Scott with instructions on how to use them. The illustrations in this edition are by Finn Campbell-Notman, and I like most of them (though would have liked more), they are spare and very quiet. However one is very annoying; it shows Mildred reflected in a mirror where her reflected hair is all wrong, and Barbie in a baggy brown skirt - when we know she is wearing her heliotrope suit which has a straight skirt with back pleat (Scott goes into incredible detail). And at the precise moment quoted, Barbie has grabbed Mildred's arm. ( )
  overthemoon | Feb 27, 2010 |
1813 The Towers of Silence A Novel by Paul Scott (read 25 Nov 1983) This is the third volume of The Raj Quartet. It tells much more about events first referred to in the second volume. Much of it is told from the viewpoint of Barbara Batchelor, a spinster who knew Edwine Crane and lived with Mabel Layton till Mabel died June 7, 1944. This book again is extremely readable, and now Scott makes me think of Henry James--but again, easier to follow. His is a major talent. ( )
  Schmerguls | Oct 5, 2008 |
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To Penny With all my Love
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In September 1939, when the war had just begun, Miss Batchelor retired from her post as superintendent of the Protestant mission schools in the city of Ranpur.
"He should have died in the rubble of Quetta. In most ways he did. The Lord alone knows for what purpose the remains are preserved."
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Table of Contents:

Unknown Indian, Question of Loyalty, Silver in the Mess, Honour of the Regiment, Tennis Court
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0380441985, Mass Market Paperback)

The third novel of a quartet set in India which began with "The Jewel in the Crown". As the war enters its last bitter stage, the English wives, daughters, mothers and widows of officers embroiled in the ongoing conflict gather in Pankot, their old beliefs and assumptions seriously threatened.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Mabel, Layton, doyenne of Pankot society, retreats altogether to the tranquillity of her rose garden and her inner vision of India--taking with her Barbie Batchelor as her companion. Both are shaken in their belief of the old order of things, which Captain Merrick and the British Military vainly struggle to uphold the myth of British invincibility in the face of irreversible change.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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