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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review - A Beggar at the Gate - Thalassa Ali

This book came about also as a recommendation from a blogger but for the life of me I cannot remember who it was so that I may thank the person.

The story covers a period of 1838 a time when Sikhs and Muslims were fighting to gain control of the state of Punjab. The British were in the ascendancy and still fighting for control of more and more of India and Afghanistan. Throw into the mix a young British girl sent to India to find a suitable partner. Marianne not the normal sort of British miss seeks adventure, fairplay and justice. Not only just getting embroiled in the politics of the region, she actually gets married to a native Muslim.

The scandal that erupts as a result is unimaginable. It is political and social suicide for not just her but also for the uncle and aunt under whose guardianship she lives in India. The story revolves around Marianne's misgivings whether to divorce her husband and live the life of purdah as all the female members of Hassan's family do, or seek a more free spirited life as part of the English contingent in Calcutta.

For once we see a very enlightened zenana - women who are happy, content and also doing a job which is very important, that of caring for their people not just physically but mentally as well. The typical stereotypes of women in purdah is totally absent in this book. Here you have women who actively take part in the community's welfare which is a refreshing change.

The book at 391 pages in a large print (lovely!) was a very light read for me which I enjoyed. I like to mix my genres when reading and this period of history in India is one which I thoroughly enjoy. We do not have similar books for a period in our own history when Britain was in control of Sri Lanka so this is the closest I could get.

For those who would like to read about the British in India this is a good one.


  1. This sounds veery intriguing! I've always loved reading about the British Raj.

  2. Ohh large print, mum would like that .)

  3. I've not read any books set in this part of the world and this time period. Sounds like one I should add to my list!

  4. I enjoy historical novels set in India and surroundings-my knowledge of history in this area is weak-thanks for your tip on this book