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on 1 January 2014
This is an interesting story woven round a Kashmir shawl. There are in fact two stories, one in the present related to Mair Ellis wanting to find out about one aspect of the family's history, and the other that story that happened in the past, focusing on her grandmother Nerys Watkins.

Trying to run two parallel stories like this can be confusing for the reader but Rosie Thomas manages to keep the two stories running without too much confusion for the reader. Initially one has to try and remember which story it is but after some time, when chapters switch to the other story, the reader can follow that without any problem. The way the book I written, the emphasis falls back at the end to the present story, rounding off the past and the present stories.

The book Is not always compelling, but there is enough interest for the reader to want to carry on reading. Some books can be interesting just for the story, but Kashmir Shawl is also interesting because of the historical and geographical contexts. The descriptions of the places, and the people are clear and although it is not historical fiction, light is thrown on many aspects, such as the fate of Kashmir during and after British rule, and the role of missionaries in South East Asia. One gets vivid descriptions such as of life on a Kashmir houseboat, the life in a mission in a remote village, nature of communication between the isolated villages and the rest of the world, and nature of family and community life in different parts.

There is always an element of disbelief but a romantic novel can include that if all the different threads are to be drawn together at the end. Someone, however, should have included a map so that the contexts of the different places mentioned would have been clear.
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on 12 April 2015
This book earns a reasonable rating for holding attention and for depiction of wartime Kashmir. It is undermined by trying to build it into a love story. The strongest aspects of the story are those based in the 1940s showing the last days of the raj.

I expected this story to be firmly rooted in the origins of Kashmir's brutal recent history and had put off reading it for that reason. Instead Kashmir is very much a backdrop to the story - yes well described but with the lives of the Europeans being centre stage. We could have done with some of the Kashmiri characters having more depth.

The narrative takes place over two time periods. It is difficult to carry two storylines equally in a way that is mutually supportive. Here the two often jolt with unnecessary similarities of plot and "give aways" between the two. For example we learn in the modern story that the husband of one character did not die - removing tension from several scenes. Also after we see Mair being affected by the modern troubles of Kashmir, the narrative instantly moves back to the past and her reaction is never fully explored.

I found the drawing of the characters to be very patchy and was often puzzled by their contradictions. Rainer is a mountaineer who is also a magician - a very odd combination! Nerys suffers a crisis of faith early on - which is then not mentioned again. How acceptable is it for the two "baddies" to be a homosexual hiding his proclivities and a playboy maharajah? Surely a man taking a wife to hide his nature would make a better fist of making the marriage palatable.

Overall the book felt rather like project with characters and plots being bent to fit in a mention of something that the author wanted to bring into the book. This with the necessity of bring in a romance or two made it at times shallow and far fetched If you want to read a book about Kashmir this isn't it. However, it is a light read and a page turner that will bring some interest.
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on 4 May 2017
There are two central characters: Mair and her grandmother, Nerys. The story begins with Mair helping to clear out her father's home after his death and finding a beautiful shawl woven in Kashmir together with a lock of hair. She knows nothing about the shawl and has nothing to tie her to Wales. She decides to go to India where here grandmother went as a missionary's wife to uncover its story.

The book deftly switches between Mair's quest and the difficult life Nerys leads in India. Nerys has two very close friends who all share the secret of the shawl.

The book is an easy read with the right amount of drama and historcal references about partition in India.

A good read.
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on 12 December 2015
I usually like Rosie Thomas' books and have re-read quite a few (White, Sun at Midnight, Every Woman... being the best). However, this one didn't work for me. It is far, far too long at 500 pages. It should lose a good 100-150. There are two storylines, past and present. Usually I find the past story is more interesting, but not in this case. It went on and on and on, with unconvincing characters and long stretches of writing where nothing happened. The modern story was slightly better and my heart lifted a little when I came back to it. Even so, the modern characters were thin as well. I was not convinced with any of the relationships (Nerys and Rainer, Mair and Hattie, Mair and Bruno) and the Nerys/ Myrtle/ Caroline Raj Wives' Club thing was hideous.

The book was about Kashmir; bringing Switzerland in at the end almost as an afterthought did not work for me.

Towards the end, as sometimes happen when a book has run on past its expiry date, I forgot who some of the people were, and I had lost interest in checking. The end of the book was rushed and written at a faster pace, which did encourage me somewhat as I felt at last the end was near. And then when the end came it was unsatisfactory, as things were not neatly tied up (I don't think Caroline will ever know about her daughter) and after this huge marathon, I would at least have liked it to be tied up nicely.
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on 14 September 2016
I've never felt inclined to review a book before but The Kashmir Shawl is an exception. I read this as it was picked for my book club. At first I thought it was going to be a sentimental read but I couldn't have been more wrong. I loved it. Every time I dared to think something might happen, I was proved wrong. Narrating the story from two perspectives 60 or so years apart was brilliant. Now that I have finished it I feel bereft and will certainly read other books by Rosie Thomas. It certainly made me ponder on the importance of family and how it echoes down through the years. I loved the fact that Zahra refused to acknowledge the truth and Caroline was too old to understand what had happened to Zahra but the shawl symbolises the family link. Another wonderful aspect of this truly magical novel is the place and the historical setting. There's so much I could say but the best recommendation I can make is - read it.
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on 14 August 2017
Really enjoyed the Welsh connection - especially to North Wales. You'd very rarely hear the word 'valley' used though....an English error? I was particularly drawn to the dynamics of the Ellis family and their need to escape rural Wales and yet an undeniable belonging to it. Something I feel everyday. The story kept me enraptured for days, I busily 'googled' the places the Author mentioned to give the story yet more colour and validity. Feel the message about Rabies gets lost within the much more enchanting take of the shawl. Loved the ending and didn't expect too,
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on 9 September 2012
This is one of the most engaging books l have read. It covers 2 different family members, one a welsh newlywed from before the war situated in India and one from today,The story situated in India is descriptive and emotionally charged with dangerous friendships and innocence. Today story with the granddaughter gets you totally involved as she tries to unravel the story of a hidden shawl discovered after her grandmothers death. If you love a good story, a mixture of love intrigue and friendship can all be found in this novel, this one is an absolute must.
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on 18 June 2014
I started to read this book, thinking 'I like it, but don't love it yet'. No sooner had I thought that, than the author began to narrate what happens from a second character's point of view (Nerys), and I found myself missing the original voice of Mair. However, when we'd heard from Nerys for a while, I found myself disappointed to be leaving her story and going back to Mair's again. This pattern continued through-out the book - I became so involved in each story, that while it pained me a little to swap narrator, within pages I was hooked on the continuation of the other woman's tale. This is all artfully done, building each character's story to a crescendo, then taking a break to do the same to another; it gives great suspense, and total 'unable-to-put-it-down-ness'. I became so enthralled in the imaginative, emotional stories, so beautifully contextualised in vivid imagery by Rosie Thomas, that I took a week to read the last chapter, so unready was I to say goodbye. Honestly one of the best books I have ever read; I cannot recommend it highly enough!
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on 16 July 2016
I really wanted to like this book. It was highly recommended to me by family members. Unfortunately I found it rather tedious and although I persevered to the end it was a struggle. I found no depth in many of the characters and felt I didn't connect with them. The two stars I have given are really in appreciation of the research the author must have carried out and for some of the descriptive passages
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on 17 September 2015
The book includes very vivid descriptions of Kashmir and life there. I read it for this reason and to remind myself of a visit to that country about 20 years ago.

The plot is quite good, although sometimes it seems the book should be coming to an end, before the story recommences again. Also notice that it started off having different time periods in different chapters, then started jumping between them in the same chapter - although this inconsistency does not affect the reading of the book and it is always clear what time period you are reading about.

Did feel a bit to me like a very good self published book rather than a professional author.
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