Ken-ichi's Reviews > The Far Pavilions

The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
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Jan 26, 10

bookshelves: india
Read from December 22, 2009 to January 26, 2010 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** Elizabeth 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.

Notes

fidus Achates: 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)

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Reading Progress

12/22/2009 page 25
2.6% "Have not been reading enough. Hoping to ramp up tomorrow."
12/25/2009 page 115
11.98% "This book shifts settings pretty quickly."
12/26/2009 page 205
21.35% "Excellent, no more bellinda"
12/27/2009 page 250
26.04% "Ash is a jerk. Poor Juli..."
12/29/2009 page 331
34.48% "I love how everyone is poisoned by plates of their favorite food that mysteriously appears in their quarters. Like, oo, donuts! Nom/Croak"
12/31/2009 page 401
41.77% "Were the Thugs a tribe of barbarians or
something?" 3 comments
01/03/2010 page 424
44.17% "Ash is still a tool. He's like the most selfish and irrational character in the book"
01/05/2010 page 574
59.79% "Made some progress on the plane, when I wasn't falling asleep on my tray."
01/08/2010 page 630
65.63% "Intense!"
01/11/2010 page 658
68.54% "Jesus ash is awful."
01/15/2010 page 728
75.83% "Turnip lantern?"
01/20/2010 page 797
83.02% "Kind slowing down through all this military stuff."

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Stella (new)

Stella I have this at home, enjoyed it immensely, romance novel but you learn a lot about India in the process. Not sure you would like it though.


Ken-ichi It was recommended to me! Glad to hear you have a copy. One less reason to leave the house.


Elizabeth What do you think so far?


Ken-ichi So far pretty good, though Ash isn't much of a character (yet). Certainly feel liking I'm learning a bit about colonial India.


message 5: by Elizabeth (last edited Jan 27, 2010 09:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elizabeth Hey Ken-ichi, I hope it was worth your time. I haven't read a ton of books about India, so for me, it was a fascinating history lesson. And I agree, some of the battle scenes drag on.


Ken-ichi Definitely worth my time, especially for the history. I think by the end of that interminable battle I was just a bit soured on the book. Her note at the end about how most of the story was based on real people and events was kind of a shocker. I'd love to go visit an Indian castle like the Palace of Winds.


message 7: by Jane (new)

Jane Matteis Try The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott if you haven't read it. Maybe not right away though. Jane


message 8: by Stella (new)

Stella Totally agree with the sugggestion to read The Raj Quartet. Generally higher level of literature, much more realistic depiction of life in the Raj circa World War Two. Extremely well written and the TV series was also great.


Ken-ichi Jane & Mom: thanks, will add it to the infinite to-read list. Also, Mom, Jane is Jane Matteis! Jane, Stella is my mom! Goodreads: the social network for you, your mom, your friends, and your friends' moms!


message 10: by rivka (new)

rivka Ken-ichi wrote: "Goodreads: the social network for you, your mom, your friends, and your friends' moms!"

I think that's a little bit too long for a bumper sticker. Might work on a t-shirt!


message 11: by Stella (new)

Stella Ken-ichi wrote: "Jane & Mom: thanks, will add it to the infinite to-read list. Also, Mom, Jane is Jane Matteis! Jane, Stella is my mom! Goodreads: the social network for you, your mom, your friends, and your fri..."

Stella wrote: "Totally agree with the sugggestion to read The Raj Quartet. Generally higher level of literature, much more realistic depiction of life in the Raj circa World War Two. Extremely well written and th..."

Hey, that's good to know. Ain't life grand? Jane and I occasionally meet in the library in real life so it is great to meet her online also. I must "friend" her!


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