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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 12 June 2017
I read Scott's Raj Quartet many years ago and it inspired me [eventually] to go to India. On my return, I ordered Staying On after it had been recommended by some of my fellow travellers. It was very enjoyable, probably even more so since I now have personal experience of the society depicted.
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on 22 May 2017
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on 20 April 2007
A tremendously moving and elegiac book that somehow manages to cover British colonial life in a way that does not sound insulting or racist in a post-colonial world. I read this on holiday along with a stack of books from more contemporary (and award winning) authors writing on similar themes and thought that in its subtle and gently amusing way it could give all of the young guns some lessons in how to write a book which covers both big themes and small affairs of the heart. The ending was almost unbearably sad. The only reason it's not a five-star rating is that like some of the other reviewers I got a bit impatient with some of the stream-of-consciousness sentences that were supposed to represent the characters when they were thinking - but otherwise this is a wonderful book.
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on 8 March 2016
This was unexpected. This is a book with no particular story, only a handful of characters, one location.....and yet it was fascinating.

The subtlety and insight of the author's depiction of the relationship between Tusker and his Margaret-Meldrew of a wife, Luce, was masterful. I have seen marriages like this. It is a marriage of times gone by. It is, quite frankly, a marriage that today would not have lasted. Scott's in-depth knowledge of the era and the culture of raj and post-raj India shone through in his remarkable ability to get inside the mind and emotion of this elderly woman.

The death of Tusker, instead of being a merciful release from domination and boorishness was, for his memsahib, a tragedy. How interesting that she preferred the familiarity of the bullying and self-centredness of her complex husband to the unknown reality of life without him. I would love to have seen a sequel to this novel. What sort of a life would Luce have had in her remaining years? My hope is that she would have found contentment with her faithful servant and would have had long enough to forge a good way of life, freed from the shackles of her controlling husband.

I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to be stretched to think about a different way of life, a different philosophy of life, a different view of the marriage relationship,...... Paul Scott, an author with remarkable imagination, will touch you with the ghost of a bygone age that will stay with you for a long time.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 December 2016
This is the sad tale of the twilight days of the sole English couple that stays on in a Hill Station after Indian independence in 1947. It is acutely observed and sensitively written, with a tendency to gentle mockery of the characters (especially the overweight, overbearing Indian landlady). It reminded me of Mrs Bridge but somehow while I enjoyed every page of Mrs Bridge, Staying On quickly became boring. I just couldn't get interested in the fate of the characters, especially as the author uses the unusual technique of placing the end at the beginning, removing most of the sense of suspense and curiosity.
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on 21 August 2014
This book is very good - five stars. But the publisher's blurb on the back is a travesty and the rating here is for Arrow Books. It gets the name of the main character wrong (it is Lucy not Lily Smalley) and then mis-spells the name of the fiction town where it is set. Try Pankot not Pangkot.

Paul Scott must be spinning in his far-too-early grave.
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on 8 February 2002
This is a splendid and touching story of a couple of British colonists who 'stay on' after the Raj ends in India, and that country gains independence from Britain. Colonel 'Tusker' and his wife are both advanced in years and it made little sense for them to pull out. The book begins with Tusker's death. A stark opening. The timeline is then turned back and we are taken through the events which, in the end, culminate in Tusker's death. By the time he dies again, Paul Scott has endeared the blustery old man to his readers to such an extent that it is a devastating blow. The power and engagement of Scott's writing is such that the reader almost forgets that Tusker is already dead, and thus his passing comes as a great shock. This novel has the curious accolade of being the first to ever make me cry. More than simply a portrait of two inviduals who decide to ride out the turning tide of history, this is a delicate and warm tale of human dignity and pride. Tusker and his wife once enjoyed tea with the elite of Imperial administrators, the Raj leaders themselves, but now find themselves relegated to a small bungalow in conditions that are beneath them. Their stoic and almost heroic endurance of their fate is a touching encounter which is perhaps not only a story of two individuals, but representative of the empire as a whole. Tusker and his wife are spent forces, with no real control over their destiny, as much as they wish otherwise and act to try to hold on to some power over their lives. Despite this, their stand is not a depressing one, rather it is bursting with vitality, however futile. Staying On will appeal especially to the traditional British sympathy for the underdog, but is a tremendous work of literature that I would recommend to anyone.
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on 21 June 1999
'Staying On' by Paul Scott presents a rich and colourful description of the life of a retired Sahib. Various perspectives are used by Scott to denote India's changing times, and the effect upon all members of society. The reader experiences extremes of emotions: from pathos to comedy, from a tragic sense of loss to a heartwarming elation. There is a comic division between the native Indian and the retired Colonialists, which results in the presentation of a society of instability. Hysterically humorous characters such as the Capitalist Mrs Bhoolabuoy and her naively weak husband add a bittersweetness to the tragedy of Tusker's death. On the more serious aspect of the novel, Tusker, the retired Army General, and his wife lead separate lives in the knowledge that in living together they are living apart. They are emotionally independent, but physically dependent upon the other's physical presence. The reader begins the novel knowing that Tusker is dead, and the plot backtracks to the past. Antidotes are related to us, and we experience a turbulent journey through a mundane yet emotionally charged environment. The comedy is sweet, the tragedy is bitter and the reader feels both emotions in the reading of this exquisite novel. This is a novel full of glorious comedy genius, but a heartfelt loss is surely felt by all who read it.
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on 14 June 2014
It is relatively easy to write a romance where the protagonists are star-crossed teenage lovers, but far harder to write a truly moving account of love hanging on by its fingernails in the last days of a long and difficult relationship. Scott succeeds in being honest, moving, frank and touching in his account of the last two remnants of the Raj in a remote Indian town. The retired colonel 'Tusker' and his wife have stayed on, and are fading away into genteel shabbiness. The book follows just a couple of months of their lives in retirement, and whilst there is much that informs us of the complicated realities of post-colonial India, it is actually the intimate relationships which take centre stage. Tusker and Lucy in particular, the insufferable and insatiable Mrs Bhoolabuoy and her smaller than life husband, and the almost unspoken love between Ibrahim and Millie, and the new priest and Susy - all these relationships are complicated. But Lucy's tale of her first love letter, and the final realisation of what the title of this book really means are beautifully touching. This is a tale of love which survives with precious little romance, but survive it does!

Paul Scott is much better known for his earlier Raj Quartet which ITV filmed as The Jewel in the Crown. But it was Staying On which won the Booker Prize in 1977 whilst Scott was already dreadfully ill with terminal colon cancer. I have read many Booker winners, and not all were worthy of the name, but Staying On is one of the good ones. Read and enjoy!
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on 5 December 2009
Very funny..very sad, beautifully written. The story of an enduring relationship set against the background of the removal of British authority over India. Wonderful.
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