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The Inordinately Strange Life of Dyce Sombre: Victorian Anglo Indian MP and Chancery "Lunatic" (Columbia/Hurst) Hardcover – May 10, 2010

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Hardcover, May 10, 2010
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Editorial Reviews


[Fisher] brings back to life one of the strangest, saddest and most unlikely stories of the entire British-India encounter.

(William Dalrymple The Observer)

Michael Fisher's biography... makes fascinating reading.

(Shrabani Basu H-Asia 1900-01-00)


This is a quintessentially nineteenth-century story reminding me of the kinds of entanglements so central to Charles Dickens's Bleak House. The tale has a novelistic quality that Michael H. Fisher adroitly brings alive even as his scholarly voice reminds us of the bigger stories that lie behind this tragic life.

(Philippa Levine, University of Texas at Austin)

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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia/Hurst
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (May 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023170108X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231701082
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,015,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Clarissa's Blog VINE VOICE on July 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Michael Fisher is a representative of that rare breed of scholars who can write a well-researched academic treatise that will be of great interest not just to a limited number of specialists in his field but to any reasonably educated person. Of course, the protagonist of Fisher's The Inordinately Strange Life of Dyce Sombre is fascinating. His life is full of incredible twists and turns and would make for a great Hollywood movie. Still, Fisher's considerable narrative gifts as well as his careful and impressive research add a lot to this fascinating story and make the biography of Dyce Sombre compulsively readable.

Dyce Sombre was the first Asian (and only the second non-White person ever) to become a Member of the British Parliament in 1841. From his adoptive mother and the princess of Sardhana Begum Sombre he inherited fabulous wealth and a complex ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity. When in 1836 he decided to leave India and move to England, Dyce Sombre brought these identity conflicts with him to the country into which he attempted to inscibe himself through means that ranged from bizarre to pathetic.

One of the things that I appreciated the most about Fisher's book is his steadfast refusal to resort to the facile identity stereotypes into which Dyce Sombre's life has often been packaged. Fisher realizes that this strategy will attract less attention to his book than it could otherwise hope for. He mentions that the paucity of references to Dyce Sombre in the last century is owed to the impossibility of using him to advance the narrative of national identity of either India or Great Britain. Fisher demonstrates, however, that he is a true scholar who will never sacrifice his intellectual integrity for popularity and higher sales figures.
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