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Heat and Dust Paperback – September 15, 1987


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Paperback, September 15, 1987
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; 1st Fireside ed edition (September 15, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671646575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671646578
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,651,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Heat and Dust views India through the lives of two English women living fifty years apart. Olivia is the first wife of an English government official assigned to India in the 1920s. The unnamed narrator the story is the young granddaughter of the same official by a later wife who, intrigued by family rumors about Olivia, travels to India seeking answers to Olivia's mysterious existence. How, in a segregated society, did Olivia meet an Indian prince of questionable character, and why did she leave her husband for him? What happened to her afterwards? As the narrator stays in the town where Olivia lived and visits places that influenced Olivia's life, we witness India's past through Olivia's letters and journals and the narrator's imagination. For Olivia, removed from the day-to-day existence of the Indian people, India "was like being not in a different part of this world but in another world altogether, in another reality." In contrast, the narrator sublets a room that shares a courtyard with an Indian family and learns much about their life. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala shows us both pre- and post-independent India, exposing the similarities and differences of India's impact on each of these women. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith

About the Author

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was born in Germany of Polish parents and came to England in 1939 at the age of twelve. She graduated from Queen Mary College, London University, and married an architect. They lived in Delhi from 1951 to 1975. Since then they have divided their time between Delhi, New York and London. As well as her numerous novels and short stories, in collaboration with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has written scripts for film and television, including A Room with a View and Howards End, both of which are Academy Award winners. She won the Booker Prize for Heat and Dust in 1975, the Neil Gunn International Fellowship in 1978, the MacArthur Foundation Award in 1984 and was made a CBE in the 1998 New Year's Honours List. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It is, nonetheless, a book well worth reading.
Lawyeraau
Many of the minor characters were even less well developed, and this made them seem like little more than stereotypes.
K. Fromal
That is described in detail with a very nice prose.
Marie Lorraine

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on May 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
The British experience in India is a subject that has been given thorough literary treatment during the past century, and most of these books have tried to highlight some aspect of the cultural contrast between east and west. E.M. Forster's "A Passage to India" is perhaps the most comprehensive of these, but Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's "Heat and Dust" makes an admirable effort to contribute to the Forsterian legacy by updating the milieu to a post-independence setting while keeping one foot firmly in the past.

The novel concerns a young English woman, the narrator, who arrives in Bombay intending to make it her home for a while and to reconstruct the story of the doomed marriage of her grandfather, a law officer named Douglas Rivers, and his first wife, Olivia, from a collection of intriguing letters that Olivia had written to her sister Marcia. From the beginning Jhabvala splits the novel into two parallel narratives, alternating between the Riverses in 1923 and the narrator in India fifty years later, who presents her adventures, thoughts, and reflections in the form of a journal.

Olivia Rivers is a bored housewife who has little to do besides playing the piano and chatting with the other British officers' wives until she becomes enamored with the charming Indian prince, called the Nawab, who governs the district Douglas serves. A living emblem of amoral corruption and aristocratic gluttony, the Nawab dwells in an ancestral palace that arrogantly overlooks the wretched slums of the neighboring town and supports an entourage of servants and sycophantic companions including an effeminate Englishman named Harry.
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Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's powerful and beautifully written novel of an "outrageous" Anglo-Indian romance in 1920s Khatm and Satipur won the Booker Prize in 1983. The author has crafted parallel tales of two young women, distantly related and separated by two generations. Anne, the story's narrator, travels to India to discover more about the mystery surrounding her grandfather's first wife, Olivia.
Douglas Rivers, an upper echelon English civil servant, married and brought his adored wife, Olivia, with him to India in 1923, during the British Raj. She was a beautiful, spoiled and spirited young woman, who found it difficult to adjust to life in the British colonial community of Satipur. Feeling suffocated by the inbred group she was forced to socialize with, Olivia longed for independence, intellectual stimulation and a more passionate life. She hoped that a baby would solve her problems but found it more difficult to become pregnant than she had thought. Shortly after their arrivel in India, Douglas, Olivia and some of the more important members of the community were invited to the palace of the Nawab of Khatm and she was immediately intrigued by the handsome, charismatic prince. He courted her friendship aggressively and then the friendship turned passionate. When faced with a crisis Olivia was forced to make life altering decisions which would have far reaching effects and cause scandal throughout British India and England that would last for generations.
Anne stays in the town where her grandfather and Olivia lived fifty years before. Trying to piece together the puzzle that was Olivia and discover what motivated her to change her life so drastically, Anne visits the places her "step-grandmother" frequented and interviews people who knew her or knew of her.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By K. Fromal on June 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
Jhabvala's book, Heat and Dust, is set India, in two eras - the 1920's and the 1970's. The two time periods are brought together through the narrator. She has journeyed to India to research the life of her grandfather's first wife, Olivia, who left him to marry an Indian prince. The narrator chronicles her own Indian adventures while telling the reader what she has learned of Olivia. The device of using the journal is very well done, and allows the reader to see how the lives of these two women intersect in very profound ways.
The descriptions of India throughout the book in both eras were amazing and very evocative, both of the individual eras and of the landscape.
While technically very well written, I did not find the book fully enjoyable. I did not feel as though the characters of either of the two women were fully fleshed out, and I found this distracting throughout the book. Many of the minor characters were even less well developed, and this made them seem like little more than stereotypes.
While not the best book I have read recently, it is short and a quick read, and worth the time.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John C. Shaw on September 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
I really did enjoy the book for the most part. It was fun light reading. My trouble with the book is that it could have been so much more. Both female characters could have had whole novels written about them but we never get beyond of the surface of either one of them. You got a favor of the riches and depavity of old Indian culture but no details. Again my major fault is not that the book was bad but that the book itself hinted at what it could be but wasn't.
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