El's Reviews > The Far Pavilions

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
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's review
Apr 30, 11

bookshelves: big-effing-books, wanderlust, 20th-centurylit-late, india
Read from March 13 to April 29, 2011

This is one of those books I've had on my shelf for... freaking-ever, but it's always just sort of been there for a rainy day. Like one of those days where you feel like reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy because you want a romping good time, but sadly, you've already read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and you're not really in the mood for the wordiness that is Tolkien anyway - you just want all the fun and adventure without all the work.

Okay, maybe I'm the only one who has waited to read this book for those reasons.

I've read some other things by Kaye, but they were specifically mysteries. I enjoyed them both - she took me to Zanzibar and Kenya and wrote about murders there and they were pretty exciting. I knew The Far Pavilions wouldn't be that same sort of excitement, but I figured since the book is about the same weight as I am that I'd find something exciting in the pages.

What I really found, sadly, was a lot of disappointment. There was some adventure, don't get me wrong. But there was so much between those moments of adventure that were not... so... adventurous, so my interest waned. A lot. I've been joking that the pavilions really are far, far away - they don't seem to make an appearance until the book is almost over, and that seems a really long time for them to show up since the title refers to them and all. I wanted them to get to the freaking Far Pavilions already, let's get on with it, oh my god, are they not there yet?

Clearly I needed a Valium while reading this one.

I see a lot of reviews raving about this book, and I feel really bad that I didn't manage to find it as charming as everyone said it was. But it wasn't 1189 pages of absolute horror. I was invested, occasionally, in Ash and Anjuli and their plight. The politics were vaguely interesting as well; as I've stated before (and likely will state again) I know very little about the Great Game, and I continue to feel I should know more about it before reading this sort of historical fiction - though I maintain I should be learning something as I go along, right?

But I really like M.M. Kaye. She was born in India and I think that's way evident in her writing in The Far Pavilions. Her love of the country practically drips off of every page and I totally respect that. However, this book was published in 1978 and is just as much of a love story as it is an adventurous historical bit of fiction. There are parts that are... well... saccharine, and I absolutely am not in a saccharine mood right now. Like this passage:
"Wally, who was always falling in and out of love, had been fond of quoting lines that some poet or other had written, to the effect that it was 'better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.' Well, Wally - and Tennyson, or whoever it was - had been right. It was better, infinitely better, to have loved Juli and lost her than not to have loved her at all. And if he did nothing worthwhile in the years ahead, life would still have been worth living because he had once loved and been loved by her..."
(p 565)

(That being said, I really liked the character of Wally.)

I just couldn't quite shake the feeling I was reading a glorified romance novel, which is a real downer for me. I don't mind a little bit of loving in my literature, but I don't need sweeping romances. Especially when I'm picking up something that I expect to be more drama and excitement and fewer heaving bosoms.

Bottom line, it's just not what I had signed up for.

Interestingly at the back of the book is one of those advertisements for The Far Pavilions Picture Book - for just $7.95 this 9" x 11 1/8" "stunning visualization" of Kaye's epic could be yours. Includes selected photographs from the author's family albums and 32 color paintings by the author herself.

That actually sounds neat.

It just wasn't what I had wanted. And the pages multiplied every time I put it down. I seriously thought it would never end. I was ready to move on. Because I couldn't get images like the one below out of my mind. And the fact that the image below exists is proof that I'm not the only one who had those sorts of images in my mind while reading the book.

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Reading Progress

03/13/2011 page 58
03/17/2011 page 144
12.0% "Finished Book One."
03/24/2011 page 250
21.0% "I can't believe how slow this reads considering how much actually happens in the first 250 pages."
04/04/2011 page 454
38.0% "Still plugging away."
04/05/2011 page 486
41.0% "Starting Book 4. It's becoming clear that an hour is not nearly a long enough lunch break."
04/07/2011 page 549
46.0% ""Do you suppose he'll beat her? I would, if she were my wife and all she could do was cry!" Haha! Oh, wait. Not funny?"
04/12/2011 page 649
54.0% "Starting Book Six."
04/19/2011 page 759
64.0% "Finally! A pavilion! No joke that those pavilions are far."
04/25/2011 page 1010
85.0% "The one nice thing of having the plague for the past five days is I was able to make a serious dent in this book. Could have finished last night if I had only had the energy."
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message 1: by Alasse (new)

Alasse Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

No, seriously, I know what you mean.

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