A woman’s quest for the truth

2011-07-13 00:00

AMERICANS Evie and Martin Mitchell are a young couple in love with each other, their young son and life, until Martin returns from World War 2, embittered and tormented by his experiences, and unable to reconnect with his family.

Martin is offered a Fulbright scholarship in India to record the end of the British Raj, and Evie leaps at the chance to accompany him with their son, with hopes of a fresh start, a way, perhaps, to mend her cracked marriage. India is facing partition, separating Muslims and Hindus into two countries — India and Pakistan — so tensions are high.

Evie does not fit in with the British expats, who refuse to acknowledge the poverty and suffering around them, and consider the locals as no better than heathens whose only worth is as badly paid servants. Evie embraces India, its food and its people, while her British contemporaries persist in trying to recreate England. However, the hopes of mending her marriage are dashed as Martin retreats further, refusing to speak of his experiences.

One day, in a fit of cleaning (Evie’s coping mechanism), a loose brick reveals a packet of letters between two Victorian friends, Felicity and Adela. Evie becomes fascinated by these wo-men, who fought against the constraints of their time in an effort to carve out lives of their choosing.

Despite the dangers of the time and her husband’s express orders to stay close to home, Evie embarks on a quest to find out all she can about the two women who lived in the same house she did almost a century earlier. She retraces their footsteps, and discovers that some of their story lives on in the village where Evie and Martin are living.

The book swings easily between Evie’s world and the world inhabited by Adela and Felicity, without causing confusion. The author successfully paints a picture of life in India during both eras, and keeps one eager to find out how both stories end. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and so will you.

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