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on 8 May 2003
The quality of writing of this story about a young girl's journey to India is so sublime it is extraordinary that Emma Smith didn't write many more novels.
She has the rare ability to transport the reader into the very heart of her story, with descriptions that are spare but so colourful that you can almost smell and see the scene. Effortlessly you can conjure up the ocean on the journey and the overwhelming effect of India, at the same time feeling acutely the emotions of the protagonists in the story.
As I read this book I kept thinking what a good film it would make, but when I analysed the story perhaps there is not enough there to grip today's audience. I couldn't bear the book to end and loved every minute of it.
Highly recommended.
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on 30 November 2003
I read The Far Cry only after it was republished by Persephone. It was quite simply the best novel I read last year - acutely observed and beautifully written. I have since bought several copies to give to friends, and without exception they have been similarly bowled over. One cried when she came to the end.
In reply to the reviewer from Banbury, I have been told that Emma Smith has written other books, but they were mainly aimed at children. And she apparently has one adult novel still unpublished.
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on 23 March 2006
This is with out doubt the best novel I've read in eons, and it's a shame that Emma Smith wrote just two adult novels, before in the late 1940s, she married and focussed on her married life. Critically acclaimed as they were, they have been largely forgotten, and a third later adult one, remains forlornly unpublished... Penguin?
In "The Far Cry", Fourteen year-old Tersea is pulled out of school by her father to go to India, simply to spite her mother, from whom her father is estranged. He is coming to England to reclaim her so that in India he can reunite her with his other daughter from a previous marriage, the lovely Ruth. At least, that's the plan...
When Teresa and her father get to India, everything changes: their responses to this nation unknown to them show them to be capable of stronger sensibilities and reactions then we supposed, and when they arrive at the house of Ruth and her husband in Assam (both of whom are themselves strongly realised characters) we feel we know them much more thoroughly, and Smith's wider precocious pattern makes more sense. This is where surprise strikes, and not for the first time...
Emma's use of India as a backdrop for her Anglo-Indian characters' problems is distinguished, as she is concerned with India in terms of the distance and immensity it implies for central Anglo-Indian family, and what it says about their own problems regarding human contact and friendship. Her powers of description are exceptional, very acutely observed and her words and phrases, beautifully crafted. Indeed, the ease with which India and its atmosphere steps into your mind, is effortless as the book reads itself
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on 25 September 2013
When I first started to read this book, I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of descriptive material, even adjectives, making the actual reading hard work. But as I persevered something was happening.
Now that I have finished this rather amazing achievement of a book, from someone about I guess in her middle twenties, I stand really in admiration. What she managed to do, and what would perhaps have been acknowledged as impossible at the time of her writing, and had never really been attempted, was the fact, that she continuously switches from external to internal dialogue, so we see inside the characters heads, see them thinking and wrestling.
It was another author, recently, who achieved the same aim and was acclaimed by the Literary World. I am talking of Hilary Mantle. Well Emma Smith was her forerunner! She had already done the same thing!
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I found this incredibly slow going to start with, and the fact that I really didn't identify with any of the characters, who were mostly ghastly and unloveable, made it hard to preservere with. I found things really picked up however in the second section of the book in which they are en route to India, and the last section of the book in which the travellers actually reached India was compelling, and in places beautifully written. It is well worth sticking with as with perseverance the book repays the effort you put into it.
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on 7 June 2011
I loved this book. Subtle and very realistic, it takes you there: on the ship, to India and into the minds of all the, very different, people concerned. I don't normally like old books at all: this one was written in 1949 but at no point did this irritate me. Timeless, sublime.
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on 18 March 2010
Although this book won a major prize when first published I thought it was the worst sort of commercial rubbish. Her other books are 100% better and well worth a read.
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