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The Jewel in the Crown (1966)

af Paul Scott

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Serier: The Raj Quartet (1)

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1,3433010,338 (3.99)1 / 275
Om en tragisk kærlighedshistorie mellem en engelsk pige og en inder under det engelske overherredømmes sidste år i begyndelsen af 1940'erne.
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"There's a difference between trying to stop an injustice and obstructing justice."

Set in 1942, shortly after the collapse of British Burma and the Japanese forces threatening other British colonies in the east, 'The Jewel in the Crown' is the first book in Scott's Raj quartet which cover the final decline of the British Raj in India. The novel features such hefty issues as racism, class and colonialism but revolves around one particular incident, the rape of a young English woman.

The novel is told as if the incident is being investigated years later from the point of view of a number of characters and times using a variety of forms, from diaries and letters to interviews which allows the author to cover a number of topics such as the war, the independence movement and various social, political and religious concerns of the time without the reader being sidetracked by too much extraneous plot.

Using a sexual assault to explore themes of race and class is nothing new, in fact it had already been done within a colonial Indian context in 'A Passage to India' as well as more modern classics like 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. However, what I found the most interesting aspect of this book was the tale of Hari. In an age where migration seems to have become the norm I found his experiences thought provoking. How are we altered, even benignly, when we move to another country and would we or our offspring be ever able to resettle back in their home nation? Or is it simply a matter of the age we are when we do it? My own brother has lived in Germany for over thirty years (not as varied as Britain and India I realise) but was left wondering just how he would manage if he moved back and would his children be able to do so? Equally is his presence in the country having any affects on the natives that he comes into contact with?

This is not an easy read by any means. Some of the topics are difficult and uncomfortable reading, Britain doesn't come out of it very well as you would expect, but I also feel that at times it was rather over-blown (there are a lot of brackets) and could have done with some judicious editing. However, I still feel that it is worth tackling and as such am moving on to the next in the series. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Oct 29, 2020 |
At a couple points I really thought of giving up on the book--up until about halfway through. There were a couple sections in the first half that kept me going, but it was a bit of a chore. There just isn't much that happens in the story. One saving grace that kept me going was that it did seem to portray accurately (at least from what I know of that time period) what was happening between the British and Indians during the Raj. Also, in the second half of the book I was intrigued by what had actually happened in the rape of Miss Manners. If you are willing to slog through some really cumbersome reading, you can find a pretty good story. ( )
  ChuckRinn | Oct 4, 2020 |
If the violent act in Bibighar Gardens is the focus and fulcrum of this novel, Scott is determined to explore every tiny root deep into the soil of personal histories. And that is both the strength and the weakness of the novel. Strength because there is great power in the way in which the various threads finally pull together. Weakness because of the slow pace and lack of narrative coherence in the earlier part of the book. In the end, the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. 9 February 2020 ( )
  alanca | Feb 12, 2020 |
(12) For whatever reason, I love fiction set in India. I have never been, and don't have a drop of British nor Indian ancestry. The first in this series written about the end days of Britain's colonial rule in India was excellent. The novel is written in 4 or 5 sections that really vary in focus and perspective. In the end they mostly tell the tale of a relationship between the niece of a former district commissioner of Mayapore, Daphne Manners, and a young Indian, Hari Kumar, raised in England but now back in India on his own. Hari is educated by a rich father who escaped India and fancies making his son as English as possible despite the color of his skin, when he dies Hari is left penniless and forced to live with middle-class Indian relatives in relative squalor. His relationship with India and Indians as well as with Daphne is the central allegory of the British-India relationship.
Then there is the incident in Bibighar gardens (I am going to miss that name) that forms the central tension of the book. . .

The book is very well written though is sometimes very dense - the text is small and the pages large and there is a decent amount of politics of the time in there. WW2; Japanese invasion of Burma, lots of references to the Mutiny, the All India Congress, Ghandi - things that I am not well versed on, and that I really didn't feel like doing a lot of additional research - so there were parts that almost begged to be skimmed which prevents me from giving a 5 star rating. But the section 'the diary of Miss Manners' is so spell-binding, transporting, and affecting - it is rare that I stay up way past my bedtime reading anything but the most shameless thriller/mystery - but I din't want to put the book down during this section.

I am so sad regarding Hari and Daphne. Scott is just so restrained and he avoids the Hollywood ending which is so right; but SO wistful. I am looking forward to immersing myself in the next novel. This reminded me of 'The Siege of Krishnapur' by J.G. Farrell a real favorite of mine in recent years. Highly recommended for lovers of literary fiction - especially relating to India such as books by V.S. Naipul, Jhumpha Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry to name a few. ( )
  jhowell | Mar 15, 2019 |
The first and most famous of Scott’s Raj Quartet series is...mixed. Some of the writing is wonderful, and Scott beautifully portrays the middle- to upper-class India of the World War 2 years. His characters are realistic and fully developed.
But...two things. First, the plot, which goes pretty much nowhere for about 300 pages. The incident on which the whole book turns, an assault on Daphne Manners, is pushed aside for a long time while the author studies the reactions of his characters, and the motivations that cause those reactions.
And then we get to the incident, and still we’re looking at reactions. Unfortunately the author uses a sort of epistolary approach in the last section, and there are pages of history and speculation. While there’s some interest in that, it’s still an info dump, and it goes on and on.
Perhaps the most revealing part of the book is presented as Daphne’s diary. Daphne is a well-intentioned, young British woman living in India, trying desperately to overcome the barriers between the two cultures. That’s the tension in the story. Some readers will think she succeeds, and admirably so. I don’t think so. She tries, and tries hard, but she fails.
This is a difficult book—I mean, difficult to analyze and fully understand. I think it would reward multiple readings. ( )
  bohemima | Jul 24, 2018 |
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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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Om en tragisk kærlighedshistorie mellem en engelsk pige og en inder under det engelske overherredømmes sidste år i begyndelsen af 1940'erne.

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