Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Relationships picked to the bone, 24 Feb. 2012
This review is from: The Towers Of Silence (The Raj Quartet) (Paperback)
The Towers Of Silence, the third of Paul Scott's Raj Quartet, is very much a novel about women. Set in India in the 1940s, the war impinges on almost every aspect of their lives, but they experience conflict largely second hand via the consequences for their male associates. Their lives are changed because those of their men folk have been affected. But it is the internal conflicts, as these women strive to maintain normality within the abnormal, that provide the book with its real substance, its real battleground. And these are no mere domestic fronts. There are conflicts of interest, prejudices, especially in the realm of social class and ascribed worth, that shed real blood.

Here are just a few of the women involved. Mildred Layton and her two daughters, the long-suffering Sarah and simpler Susan, have John, husband and father, detained as a prisoner of war in Europe. Susan's new husband, the rather dull and inexperienced Teddy, has been killed in action on the Burma front. She bears his child, tentatively and premature. There's Mabel, Mildred's rather off-beat step-mother-in-law who occupies Rose Cottage, the well appointed residence that really would be put to better use if it housed the rest of the family, allowing them to vacate the less-than-adequate, if not actually demeaning government issue where they currently reside. And then there's Barbie Batchelor, Mabel's housemate of some years. She's an ex-missionary, a teacher of young children, parlour maid class, of course, now put out to the pasture of retirement, pasture that just happens to be the laws of the favoured and evied Rose Cottage.

From the previous two books in the quartet, the two Manners characters, Daphne, who was abused in the 1942 Mayapore civil unrest, and her aunt, Lady Manners, still figure large in events. The fall-out for the now ex-policeman, Ronald Merrick, still troubles, pursues him, in fact. Daphne died in childbirth, so he believes the case died with her. No-one else seems to think so. Intriguingly the surviving child is also a girl.

But it is Barbie who emerges a the book's focus. Her friend and colleague, Edwina Crane, opened the sequence of novels. She was also attached in the 1942 riots, and then later she committed suttee, her mind allegedly disturbed by what had happened. It was an act that Barbie could not and still can not understand, provoking her to question whether her life devoted to bringing Indian children to God might just have been mis-spent. Sarah Layton will still talk to her, but Mildred hates her. And so when...

But then this is all plot, and the reader wants this to unfold anew from the book, itself. Let it be said that the characters of The Towers Of Silence interact in remarkably complex ways. But what is actually said is only ever a small part of a much bigger story. It was Lawrence Durrell who described the English having a hard and horny outer shell, but soft at centre, exploring the world via sensitive antennae called humour and prejudice. And this description fits the way in which the colonial British in India have become a caricature of a society that no longer exists in the home country. Change is inevitable, and when it comes it is likely that those left rootless by it will be laid out on a tower of silence, the place where Parsees leave their dead to be picked to bones by raptors, where all the fleshed-out airs and graces of class will fall away.

Paul Scott's novel is sensitive, but analytical enough to have a vicious streak. It is full of rumours and, of course, prejudice, especially in the way that its characters deal with anyone suspected of having lower social status than themselves. And if you are a colonial British in India, that's just about everyone, despite the lack of obvious future that the way of life might claim.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

4.9 out of 5 stars (8 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (7)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
£9.99
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Location: La Nucia, Spain

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,843