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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Review - East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

East of the Sun dealt with a new topic for me. The girls who used to go out to India to hopefully look for a husband - crudely put The Fishing Fleet. It also dealt with a lesser known element of women going out to India. Those who had no means of support in England and who felt that a better life was available for them in the form of getting employment as governesses, companions, and teachers.

The story revolves around Rose, Victoria and Viva three completely different women going out to India for three different reasons. Rose the quiet, traditional girl who has already found her partner and is going out to marry him. Her fears and insecurities on the journey out to India are descriptive and very sensitively described. She realises that what started out as a very light hearted journey is one which is very serious indeed and one that is going to change her entire life. On the other hand Tor as Victoria is known is going apparently to be a bridesmaid at Rose's wedding. Delving into her mind we see that she is escaping a tyranical mother and Tor has no intention of ever returning to England and looks upon this trip as a means of getting away from her mother permanently.

In Viva's case getting away from a lover who has treated her badly was the catalyst for the journey which also involves finding out what really happened to her parents who lived and died in India - finding employment is another reason for Viva to move out of England.

The three stories are interwoven and as each one unfolds we see Rose maturing as a young woman who begins to see that life is not just parties, dances and good clothes but that her marriage is something that she has to work on if she wants to make a success of it. For Tor it involves heartbreak once again before she finds love with a man who is more attuned to her though he may not have the money or position which for her was all important when she started her journey. For Viva getting to the bottom of her parents deaths and then finding someone who cares for her is a dream come true.

The book is a light read with a happily ever after kind of story. For someone who likes to read about India and specially India at the time of the English sahibs and their hold on Indian society, this will be a good read as there is a fair amount of description regarding life as lived in this period. An interesting book.


  1. This sounds like an incredibly interesting read and I never cease to be amazed at how much English literature India inspires - but then i guess that it is a pretty amazing place. When is this book set?

    Lovely review - thanks for sharing


  2. Aaah, I've had this book for a year and still haven't managed to read it! I'm glad you liked it, it'll spur me on to finally pick it up!

  3. Wow, this sounds like a great book! Very nice review. Thank you for stopping by Let Them Read Books today!

  4. It would be so easy to mistake this book for one of those others, lush, rich people having dramas played out against exotic backgrounds. This one was so much more. It was people of all economic groupings, for a start, and it wasn’t just us, it was the Indians, shown in so many different ways. Everyone commented on everyone else, rightly, wrongly. I understood so much more about the cultures of us in the ‘20s, off on ‘the fishing fleet’ to find husbands; and of what India was like at the time – Gandhi and times changing, us changing [or not in the case of some], the Indians changing towards us, in so many ways large and small. There is so much detailed historical analysis and research clearly done in the writing of this book, and all doled out during the story, so that its so much easier to understand this complicated period, and from so many different points of view.

    Characters are wonderful – Viva, the bluestocking author, who wants to learn all about India and be a writer – her road is rough, and all her mysteries come to haunt her until she is healed at the end. Rose who comes to India for the equivalent of an arranged marriage, neither she nor her prospective husband Jack truly understanding that their lives before and after marriage will be utterly different; there was no getting to know each other, no blending…they cut each other’s lives in half and bled through the book until a sort of truce was reached, unhappy but its where they’re left. Tor, who is desperate to get away from her controlling mother, and stay in India after accompanying Rose out. She is full of life and enthusiasm and ends up happy, for which I am so glad, with the wonderful boyish Toby, who understood so much – there’s a very affecting story about a small bird he tells.