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Heat and Dust

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  7,383 ratings  ·  420 reviews
Set in colonial India during the 1920s, Heat and Dust tells the story of Olivia, a beautiful woman suffocated by the propriety and social constraints of her position as the wife of an important English civil servant. Longing for passion and independence, Olivia is drawn into the spell of the Nawab, a minor Indian prince deeply involved in gang raids and criminal plots. She ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published April 16th 1999 by Counterpoint (first published 1975)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,383 ratings  ·  420 reviews

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Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, dark, very-british
Fascinating book about the contradictions between and at the same time love of Indian and English culture… The beautiful, spoiled and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant living in India, shocks society in the tiny, suffocating hot town of Satipur, by eloping with an Indian prince, the Nawab. Fifty years later, her step-grand daughter goes back to the heat, dust and the squalor of the bazaar to find out more of Olivia’s scandal and discover India for herself. So the story moves back and fort ...more
Paul Bryant
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, bookers, india
1) Western writers on British India seem a bit obsessed with sex between English women and Indian men. There was A Passage to India by Forster in 1924 – the plot turns round a charge of rape of an English woman by an Indian man. Then The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott in 1966 – another charge of rape of an English woman by an Indian man. Then Heat and Dust in 1975 which gives us the shocking tale of an English woman who elopes with an Indian man.

2) This novel is another of those very melancho
Sep 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: indian-novels
3.5 stars
Winner of the Booker Prize in 1975; this is actually quite good. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is an interesting character; her parents fled the Nazis in the late 1930s and she lost many family members in the Holocaust. She lived initially in Britain and then married an Indian architect and moved to India in 1951. She remained there until the 1970s when she moved to the US where she continued her already creative relationship with the Merchant Ivory team and had a hand in a great many of their f
An eloquent and beautifully poised novella comparing and contrasting the experiences of two English women in India. The unnamed narrator travels to India to investigate and tell the story of her father's first wife, a bored housewife who has an affair with a local prince. Their two stories are alternated and have many parallels, as well as contrasts between colonial and independent India. It is easy to see why this book won the Booker prize. ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short novel tells the story of two women, in two different era's. First there is the spoiled and unhappy Oliva, in 1923 colonial India, who outrages society by having an affair with the local Nawab. Olivia's husband Douglas divorces her and remarries. In the 1970's, his granddaughter arrives in India to revisit the places her family once lived and to try to discover the truth about the scandal that surrounded her grandfather's first wife.

There are a great deal of parallel events that occur
[2.5] An only-just-postcolonial novel about the British in India, by an author who described herself as "a Central European with an English education and a deplorable tendency to constant self-analysis," and who was married to an Indian man.

Some friends will see from that quote why I might have been interested in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, but I read this very short book mostly to improve my count of Booker winners (this being only the 14th), as I'm active in a group where many people have read more
I’d been looking forward to reading this book, not least because Ruth Prawer Jhabvala wrote the screenplays for wonderful films such as A Room With A View and Howards End, and a personal favourite of mine, The Remains of the Day. I’m also drawn to books set in India. Lastly, because Heat and Dust won the Man Booker Prize in 1975, although admittedly that year there was only one other book on the shortlist – Thomas Keneally’s Gossip From the Forest. You can understand my disappointment then that ...more
Oct 04, 2020 rated it liked it
A somewhat dissatisfying book with the ending. An unnamed Step Great Grand daughter goes to India to find out about her mysterious snd scandalous Grandmother Olivia. The story switches between 1923 and the 1970s.

Olivia is a spoilt woman married to Douglas a work obsessed civil servant managing a part of India. She becomes embroiled through a friendship with Harry an English companion of the Nawab a local ruler. The story documents her seduction by the Nawab while in parallel her granddaughter e
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, india
3.5 stars

This was my first trial in reading Mrs Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's novel due to my disappointment with Ms Arundhati Roy's latest one entitled "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" (Knopf 2017) in which I could not go on around page 30 even though I had immensely enjoyed reading her "The God of Small Things" (Fourth Estate 2009).

For our better understanding, we should start with its brief synopsis:
The beautiful, spoilt and bored Olivia, married to a civil servant, outrages society in the tiny,
Winner of the Booker Prize 1975.

I like this book, but there are too many questions left hanging in the air for me to give it more stars.

The author draws a story of two women and their perception of India. The tale flips back and forth between the two women and their respective time frames set fifty some years apart, one before the independence of India and the other after.

The first woman is the young Olivia Rivers married to a British officer stationed in Satipur. The year is 1923. He’s handsom
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c20th, britain, booker
It took less than a day to read this - 180 pages long and easy to read - but it's a rich and fruitful book. It comprises two stories in parallel: the tale of Olivia who abandons her British husband when she goes to India; and of her un-named relative who goes to Satipur some fifty years later to solve the mystery of what became of Olivia. She ends up becoming 'seduced' by India too.

Olivia is naive but adventurous, and she doesn't like the other British wives and their disdain for Indian religion
Elizabeth (Alaska)
The opening of this book tells that Olivia finds her way to the Nawab (a minor Indian Prince), leaving her husband. I have had a string of reading lately where there is marital trouble and I wasn't exactly in the mood for another. But this felt entirely different. Olivia seems wholeheartedly in love with Douglas, her husband, and he with her. So what happened?

Olivia's story takes place in 1923 when the British ruled India. Her story is told by Olivia's step-granddaughter. There are two stories

Ho hummmmm .....

Always the same story, isn’t it? And when there’s nothing new to say, just don’t say it.

Paul Scott re-visited E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, and surpassed him by a country mile. After Scott, there was nothing left to say about India.

They should have given Jhabvala’s Booker to Scott for one of his other novels in the Raj Quartet. (As it was, they only gave him one, for Staying On.)

When Booker starts making sense, I’ll read more Bookers. As it stands, I now read them, on
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two women, separated by half a century, move from England to India where they uncover new aspects of themselves. I enjoyed the sense of place and the development of the characters.
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a lovely little novel. It immerses you in two different yet parallel India's. One of colonial 1923 and the other independence circa 1970s. It is very hard not to draw comparisons with E.M Fosters great novel "A Passage to India" both dealing with the English/Indian cultural clash and the somewhat mystical draw of India on the European character. I have a particular fondness for literature dealing with the follies of Englishman in foreign lands so this slight novel really appealed. My onl ...more
George K. Ilsley
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
The winner of the Booker Prize, this slim novel packs a big punch. There is one timeline from 1923 ("Olivia's story") and a second contemporary (1970's) timeline. Race, sexuality, spirituality, class systems, gender roles, layers of identity— all of these big tickets items are filtered through a deceptively spare narrative.

This author is perhaps best known for being the screen writer/ collaborator on many of those wonderful Merchant Ivory productions.
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
In your teens and 20s you are impatient to leave your roots and fly away to explore a whole new world, the charm of new, and in your 30s or 40s you think of going deeper and deeper to dig your roots, the hidden treasures, the legacy, the pas, the charm of old, even if it lies in Heat and Dust.

This is what this book stands for, when a young woman, goes back to India to explore her family's ties and the underlying gossips or truth for that matter. She is different and she chooses a different life
Apr 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
A decent book. It actually brought me to tears in one particular instance:

"Maji sat down under a tree and took the old woman's head in her lap. She stroked it with her thick peasant hands and looked down into the dying face. Suddenly the old woman smiled, her toothless mouth opened with the same recognition as a baby's. Were her eyes not yet sightless--could she see Maji looking down at her? Or did she only feel her love and tenderness? Whatever it was, that smile seemed like a miracle to me" (1
The rest of the time Olivia was alone in her big house with all the doors and windows shut to keep out the heat and dust. She read, and played the piano, but the days were long, very long.
Leslie Reese
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars - not because it wasn't well written but because I read Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's short story collection, Out of India: Selected Stories, prior to reading Heat and Dust, so the novel seemed less dynamic and compelling to me. ...more
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
1975 Booker

An excellent, quick read that jumps back and forth in time between 1923 and 1970s India, concentrating on the lives of the wife of a British official in 1923 and her husband's granddaughter in the 1970s.

Heat and Dust it is set in India in different periods of time and it was written in 1975 by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
The book tell us the story of two members of the same family who lived in India in different periods.

The first one is Olivia, the first wife of Douglas. She was unfaithful and this thing provoked a huge scandal in the British Community. Years later, Douglas finally married again with another woman, who was the mother of his only child and he is also the
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found the novel fascinating with simple but captivating writing. Simple story but deep subtext about colonialism and class and gender and race although completely from the point of view of two British white womyn 50 years apart. I guess it’s an early version of desperate housewives; the British colonists version.
Courtney H.
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookers
This is definitely one of my least favorite Bookers. It was dull, it was pretentious, and the main character was, in the words of Rizzo, a total drag. Which might have been somewhat forgivable if it didn't have such a promising start. Because Jhabvala is clearly a good writer, and though the book is in journal form -- not usually my favorite -- it paces nicely and the writing has a nice kind of precision to it (though somewhat pretentious, as mentioned before). More importantly, she introduces a ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - 15 Minute Drama:
A beguiling story of two English women living in India more than fifty years apart. In 1923, Olivia is unhappily married to a civil servant. Her step-granddaughter travels to the subcontinent years later to investigate Olivia's life, which her family regarded as 'something dark and terrible'.

The story centres on the experiences of two very different women in pre- and post- Independence India. One is circumscribed by English mores and the formal social structure
Ben Batchelder
Dec 13, 2016 rated it did not like it

This is a very odd, Booker-winning book. Even the title is provocative. The heat is procreation, the dust death. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s unnamed narrator, referring to her alter-ego and ex-great aunt, puts it this way:

The rest of the time Olivia was alone in her big house with all the doors and windows shut to keep out the heat and the dust. [p.17]

So what Olivia at first shunned – the crush of humanity in India – the narrator embraces from the start, being, you see, more modern. Let all the birth
Mark Fulk
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite recent novelists, Jhabvala (who was also a noted screenwriter) manages to humbly enact a mostly non-colonialist relationship to India, which she models for her readers. Would that we in America today would be so humbled and kind in our relationship with others both within and without our country's borders! Jhabvala has an amazing sense of place and plot, moving effortlessly in and out of various women's (and men's) lives with sympathy and candour and understanding. This partic ...more
Aban (Aby)
May 20, 2013 rated it liked it
In this short novel the reader follows the stories of two English women: the narrator whose name is never revealed and Olivia, her step-grandmother. Set in 1923 during Colonial times and fifty years later in Independent India, the novel follows the narrator's attempt to trace Olivia's life: her dissatisfaction with being an administrator's wife and her attraction to an Indian ruler who offered her an escape from it. Both women become pregnant and, although the choices they make are different, th ...more
written in 1975, this book won the Booker prize of that year.

Set in 'modern day' (of 1975), but with over half the novel recounting events which happened fifty years prior, this books covers two very different times in India. It is set in Satipur, in Uttar Pradesh.

Our main character in modern day is unnamed, but is visiting India to investigate the story of her step-grandmother (her fathers, fathers first wife - her father was the child of the second wife).

The story of Olivia Rivers (in 1923), i
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it
It was a cool look into what India was like post-British colonialism. You got to see parallels in today's, or 1970's at least, Indian society too, the book kind of shows that India has taken old British Imperialism from their past and taken it over for their own particular ways of living.
The author seems to think Indian culture will *always* change a person entering it, whether for the person's better or worse, and demonstrates this in the exact same story through a woman and her great-great aun
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Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, CBE was a Booker prize-winning novelist, short story writer, and two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter. She was perhaps best known for her long collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions, made up of director James Ivory and the late producer Ismail Merchant. Their films won six Academy Awards.

She fled Cologne with her family in 1939 and lived through the London Blitz

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“The rest of the time Olivia was alone in her big house with all the doors and windows shut to keep out the heat and dust.” 2 likes
“Shortly before the monsoon, the heat becomes very intense. It is said that the more intense it becomes the more abundantly it will draw down the rains, so one wants it to be as hot as can be. And by that time one has accepted it -- not got used to but accepted; and moreover, too worn-out to fight against it, one submits to it and endures.” 2 likes
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