** spoiler alert **
recommended this to me based largely on my mixed heritage, and my mom had a copy at home and it was waiting for me on my bedside table when I got back for the holidays, so I jumped right in. 900+ pages later, I'd say the novel can be summed up by the following:White boy grows up thinking he is Indian, makes Indian friends. Boy discovered by Brits, whisked off to Britain. Boy returns to India as member of the Raj. Boy reconnects with old Indian friends, falls in love with one, constantly torn by his dual allegiances.
That's a pretty good framework for a 300 page adventure, but lordy, did this book drag on. Especially toward the end, when the author decided to recreate the minutia of an entire battle for 75 pages, very little of which concerned any of the main characters. I enjoyed the portions in Kardikote, the bridal caravan, and Bithor, but even they were a bit protracted.
What kept me reading was the transporting vocabulary and scenery. I knew nothing about the British Raj, or much about Indian history (aside from fleeting, dubious memories from Midnight's Children), so everything felt new to me. Burning wives! Elephant saddles! Tulwars and jezails! Chuppatis everywhere! And of course the adventure and romance were fun, if a bit hammy at times ("Oh my, a cave. I seem to have lost my clothes. Shall we make babies then? Yes, let's.").
My biggest gripe overall was Ash himself. He was kind of a tool, completely self-absorbed and generally petulant and childish throughout, which was cute when he was a kid and exceedingly annoying when he wasn't. Example: the love of his life has been tortured for two years and he believe that he has just shot her beloved half-sister to save her from being burned alive, and his main concern is that she might not want to have sex with him after he forced her to get married on a ship. At sea. Did I mention she was seasick? That kind of thing just annoyed me.
: literally "loyal Achates" in Latin. Achates was apparently Aeneas's best bud. Generally used to describe a faithful friend. (p. 211, describing Wally)
p. 215 Wally cites a beautiful passage from Aurora Leigh
, "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who see takes off his shoes."saht-bai (n):
"seven brothers," small brown birds that form flocks of seven, according the glossary. Haven't been able to find much more about them. (p. 254)megrim (n):
low spirits, whim, migraine. (p. 302)miscegenation (n):
marriage or interbreeding between people of different races. How I have lived this long without knowing this word is beyond me. Wait, apparently I have known this word
, but then forgot. That is not beyond me. (p. 315)debouch (v):
to emerge from a narrow passage into an open space. (p. 571)
p.573 Kaye refers to "white ants" on several occasions, but it looks like it's just a synonym for termites.frog (n):
apparently it also refers to a type of ornamental button, or a scabbard suspended from a belt. (p. 574)reft (v):
past tense of "reave." (p. 693)spalpeen (n):
Irish for lad, boy, scamp. (p. 709)temporize (v):
to stall be being indecisive or evasive. (p. 714)