One of the places I have wanted to visit has been the Kashmir area. Manali, Srinagar, the Leh district and Dharamsala. This book made it worse!
On her father's death, the task of clearing up the house falls to Mair and she discovers an exquisite shawl with a lock of hair enclosed within and the hair was definitely not her grandmothers. Mair knows that her grandparents worked as missionaries for a while in the Kashmir region but because her grandmother died when she was a child, she had never questioned her mother and obtained more details of their life out in India at the time.
Mair decides to trace the journey of this shawl from its origins and how it ended up in her family's possession. The story is twofold. There is the story of Mair who is restless and feels drawn towards India. She feels that answers for her future as well lie there. Then there is the story of her grandparents - a dour stern grandfather and a fun loving, lighthearted grandmother and the story of their life and work as missionaries in the Kashmir valley.
The background to the story is the British colonial life and the gradual animosity that was developing in India against British rule. The stories of life for the British is in turns happy, sad, pitiful and overbearing. Those who felt that they were pukka sahibs and lorded over it all were one and people like Nerys who genuinely loved the children of the mission and felt it an honor to try to teach and enlighten them in general, and even to a lesser extent Ethan who believed in what he was doing unlike most of the colonial administrators who felt that they not only knew it all, but that they knew what was good for the locals and acted accordingly.
Mair developed very well throughout the story. She began to realize what she wanted in life and how she wanted to live. The links between Kashmir and Wales were beautifully interwoven and the story though not with a neat ending of happily ever after was a good one.
One felt transported to the Kashmir valley and I for one would have liked to have gone immediately to see whether it is actually as picturesque as the story depicts. This book transported me also into colonial India so that I felt I was actually living the part there at the time. Bringing me back to present day Wales (unknown territory for me) which was very pleasant as well.
A very intense read.