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The Towers of Silence (The Raj Quartet #3)

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  884 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
In this third volume of The Raj Quartet, attention focuses on Barbara Batchelor, a retired mission school teacher. We see the world through her eyes and with her perspective.

The Manners case and the politics of Congress leader Mohammed Ali Kasim are relegated to the background as Barbara takes the lead. Where women are traditionally reticent, her character is a revolution

Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Published December 1st 1984 by Avon Books (first published 1971)
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Lobstergirl It's best to read them in order. Plotlines develop across all four novels (there's a lot of repetition). You'll be confused if you read them out of…moreIt's best to read them in order. Plotlines develop across all four novels (there's a lot of repetition). You'll be confused if you read them out of order.(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,705)
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Nandakishore Varma
The Parsis - members of the Zoroastrian faith, who have immigrated to India from Iran - do not bury or cremate their dead. The corpses are hung upon huge wooden structures to be picked clean by vultures. (I have seen this place in Mumbai from the outside. No outsiders can enter.)

An apt metaphor for a dead empire, being slowly devoured by the vultures of history - seen mostly through the eyes of Barbie Batchelor, a retired missionary schoolteacher: herself an anachronism.

Another winner from Paul
Kressel Housman
This is the third book in The Raj Quartet, and I found it the most complex so far. It does not pick up where the last one left off, but begins at a point in time even before the first book. More importantly, there’s a shift in perspective: we’re now in the life of Barbie Batchelor, a peripheral character in The Day of the Scorpion. The Quartet has been told from multiple perspectives from the very beginning, but Paul Scott’s mastery particularly shines through with Barbie. Usually when books hav ...more

Scott writes old white women brilliantly. There actually isn't too much new plot in this third installment of the Raj Quartet, set in the hill station of Pankot; we mostly go over ground covered in the first two novels, sometimes from an omniscient perspective, sometimes from that of a different character. The spinster educator and missionary Barbie Batchelor is the protagonist. Her relationships with the dowager Mabel Layton, and Mabel's stepson's chilly wife Mildred Layton, are wonderfully lim
This book is the third one of the series The Raj Quartet.

Some historical background which is important in order to follow the plot:

Pankot, Barbie Batchlor's new home:

Page 50:
Gandhi's quit India resolution (Quit India Movement), August 14th, 1942.

Page 100:
Subhas Chandra Bose takes the leadership of the Indian National Army.

Page 284:
...the defeat of the Japanese attempt to invade India at Imphal...

The plot is set in Pankot which is a "second class" hill station in the province which serves as a
Mar 14, 2012 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, it ...more
Apr 29, 2012 Alexandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Impossibly beautiful, tragic, urgent, moving, ecstatic, its frustrating bits of war reportage and historical minutiae included. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING on the British in India comes even close - hell, who cares about the British in India, this is about the human condition as a whole, and very little comes close there too. I could not read the closing pages, I could not bear to let this work end.
Brent Hayward
May 26, 2015 Brent Hayward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book primarily focuses on women. The European females who populated the earlier volumes, peripherally or otherwise (the sisters, for instance, and deaf Aunt Mabel), are seen, as they unwittingly shed their British heritage, through the eyes of Barbie, a sexless, spinster missionary, entering their circles of life in rural India as she reaches the end of her own. And as the raj likewise crumbles around them, and WW2 ravages on, dominating the outside world and stealing men periodically from ...more
Martin Zook
Mar 07, 2015 Martin Zook rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asialit
A key to unlocking The Towers of Silence, Paul Scott's third installment of the Raj Quartet, is none other than the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, who opined that the individual is the portal to history.

That is unless the reader would rather choose entry through the towers of silence used by the Parsees (a Zoroastrian community that fled Muslim conquering of Persia) during their funeral rights to lay their deceased out for the vultures to feast on.

Either way, the infinite land of Sco
Nov 13, 2014 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third instalment of Scott’s Raj Quartet. I must admit to a little confusion when I started the book. I was pretty sure I’d not read it, but the story seemed very familiar. At least, it sort of did. And when the narrative referred to something I remembered clearly from an earlier book in the quartet, but here it all happened off-stage, I realised that Scott was covering ground previously described but this time from different characters’ viewpoints. So, for example, when Sarah Layton ...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
It's not far from the truth to say that I am entirely surrounded by water books. But over the last couple days, I've been feeling restless and enervated, reading-wise. I feel like I already knew all the books that I have, even the ones that I haven't read.

I started reading this one because I felt like since I knew nothing about the author, the genre, or the time period (the last days of English rule of India), I had no idea what to expect and could be surprised, or at least not-bored.

Was I not
Jul 04, 2015 Maudie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks once again, Paul Scott, for a wonderful read! Good story-telling remains intact, no matter the passage of years.
Feb 05, 2013 Sandhya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very over-written and frenzied. My interest was sustained for about 200 pages, and then I gave up. Paul Scott is a writer of some talent for sure. He is perceptive and etches out characters well. But the whole thing just gets tiresome after a point. Scott tends to overload you with information where words seem to tumble on each other. It gets exhausting even with its merits.
Feb 20, 2015 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this series. As always so many different pieces of the story tie together in unexpected ways and an ending that draws me to the next book in the series. I am sure that I am missing so many things that Scott alludes to in the story. This is one series that I think I will enjoy a reread.
David Guy
Jan 08, 2015 David Guy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was ready to give this book only four stars, because it began slowly and seemed to go over a lot of material from the previous novels (I couldn't imagine that anyone would pick up this book without having read the others). And then, somewhat to my surprise, it seemed to go over much of the same material again, only from different viewpoints, including that of an aging spinster and missionary, also from the standpoint of Susan Layton, who is the most interesting character in the series. So this ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Carly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard to review this separately from the others in the Raj Quartet as they are so interconnected. Nonetheless, I will start my saying that I wanted this to push the story forward and I was initially disappointed that the story was being retold primarily from the perspective of one of the Pankot characters. Once I had adapted to this, the same brilliant characterisations and method of demonstrating the gaps between individuals' understanding the same events shine here as with the earlier boo ...more
William Leight
Dec 20, 2014 William Leight rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The Raj Quartet" is basically an updating of the kind of sprawling, society-describing epic 19th century writers were so fond of: the Palliser novels, say. The difference is that Scott, influenced by the modernist trends of the 20th century, is far less concerned about plot than the Thackerays and Trollopes were. When Trollope describes the state of English politics, he does it through the plot arcs of his characters, MPs, ministers, and PMs who rise on Reform and fall on the Irish question. By ...more
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Sundarraj Kaushik
A good read for people who love the Raj. Out and out a book about a small piece of life in the Raj.

The book is about a lady who has retired as the Superintendent of a school Ms. Barbara Batchelor and is on the lookout for a place to stay when she finds an advertisement for a Paying Guest with a widow in one of the cantonments. The book is set during the time the World War is fought.

She replies and gets a positive response saying she should come and try it out as a three week vacation and if they
Oct 26, 2015 Dan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A complete waste of time. Barbie Bachelor is not a person you should hang your novel upon. The goings on of the ladies of whatever-house is not particularly interesting. This is just blah-blah-blah let's get to the final novel, shall we? Merrick makes a cameo at the end and makes a brave attempt at saving this afterthought of a novel, but it's too late.
Jun 09, 2013 Trent rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel centers on Barbie Batchelor, the retired missionary played by Peggy Ashcroft in TV miniseries The Jewel in the Crown.
Again, the events in book 1 of the Raj Quartet are rehashed at length, as this time we have to follow along as Barbie learns about the attacks on Miss Crane and Daphne Manners, and ruminate on them.
And many of the newer events of book 2 (The Day of the Scorpion) are reiterated, this time from Barbie's POV.
It's probably only because of my fond memories of the miniserie
May 16, 2015 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The way the four novels are constructed is very unique. We often hear the same information from several different sources or we get a suggestion of something in one book but the details in another. It is really important to read all four in order to feel the real impact of the work.
I have not read Books 1 or 2 in the series. This one read well without having to wade through the previous books.

A strong book focusing on the impact of war on the wives, daughters and companions of the British Army at Pankot. Well developed characters and there is no doubt there was a lot of people full of their own importance who were willing to live in India to help maintain the Empire.

I was a bit mystified by the main character of Mrs Bachelor, who came to live in Pankot after her retirement
Jean Hontz
Jul 11, 2014 Jean Hontz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Continues the Raj Quartet depicting the end of the Raj and the end of WWII, as usual with Scott, events seen from multiple points of view allowing us to see how our prejudices and assumptions color our view of so many events we witness.
Dec 29, 2008 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful read. If you are interested in India and its relationship with the British during World War II and if you are willing to read this book slowly to savor the beautiful writing and the tragedy, irony and biting humor then I highly recommend it. I have read the first 2 books of the Raj Quartet and also found them fascinating. Having seen the PBS mini-series "The Jewel in the Crown", based on these books, I have a picture in my mind of all of the characters and the general lay of the land ...more
Gail P
Oct 31, 2015 Gail P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant series. This one completed the quartet for me. Of the four it is the least enjoyable for me, but still the within the framework of the quartet it is masterful.
Angela Lewis
Apr 12, 2016 Angela Lewis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Continuation of the stories surrounding events of The Jewel in the Crown. Individual characters are revealed in detail, the saga proceeds in eloquently
I didn't like this as much as the previous one. I guess it's because the point of view was from someone who was a relatively minor character before. But I saw a beauty in the way Barbie Batchelor's inner voice - much louder than her actual voice - was shown to analyse situations around her, especially towards the end of the book. A sadness descends upon the reader after it is over - the events described are, for the most part, a repeat of the previous book, and the reader knows of most if not al ...more
Excellent series - maybe a bit more than I needed to know about Barbie but still excellent.
Jill Hutchinson
Mar 11, 2015 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I liked this third book in the Raj Quartet much better than the first two. The author is bringing his characters to a maturity that gives the reader some insight into their personalities. Those who we thought were peripheral have turned out to be major players in the story. As is Scott's style, the reader is left on his/her own to interpret some of the situations that arise and he can change one's thinking with a single sentence. The days of the Raj are disappearing and it is interesting to see ...more
Junemarie Brandt
While it's fascinating to see the same incidents through the viewpoints of different people, the language is sometimes dense and hard to slough through. But at other times the prose is incredibly beautiful and moving. This book does spend a little too much time delving into the troubled mind of Barbie Batchelor as she slips into madness, making it hard to determine what is "truth" as far as the story goes, and what are part of her delusions. Waiting to read the final book to see what loose ends ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Paul Scott was born in London in 1920. He served in the army from 1940 to 1946, mainly in India and Malaya. He is the author of thirteen distinguished novels including his famous The Raj Quartet. In 1977, Staying On won the Booker Prize. Paul Scott died in 1978.
More about Paul Scott...

Other Books in the Series

The Raj Quartet (4 books)
  • The Jewel in the Crown (The Raj Quartet, #1)
  • The Day of the Scorpion
  • A Division of the Spoils (The Raj Quartet, #4)

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“The calendar was a mathematical progression with arbitrary surprises.” 3 likes
“The world exists for the education of each man. There is no age or state of society, or mode of action in history, to which there is not somewhat corresponding in his life. Everything tends in a most wonderful manner to abbreviate itself and yield its own virtue to him. He should see that he can live all history in his own person. He must sit at home with might and main, and not suffer himself to be bullied by kings or empires, but know that he is greater than all the geography and all the governments of the world . . .” 0 likes
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