on January 9, 2012
This book drips with the mix of cultural pressures that were evident in the fading years of the British Empire in India. After weaving through a rich tapestry of historical fact, spiritual influences, and diverse and often conflicting cultures, not to mention an interesting ongoing plot, the reader ends up in the evocative hills of North Wales. Or will we? Taylor draws use steadily into the mists of Rama's mystical spirituality as we navigate the lives of his diverse cast of interesting characters. In the end time soaked magicians and savage gods win a timeless struggle against our modern world, or do they? I struggled for a while to identify a central theme, especially as this clever plot leaves room for most to follow their own path between orthodox belief and mystery. In the end I decided that the above all else this is a book about destiny.
The big picture follows the destiny of India as the seeds of a new beginning where planted and started to spout, we see the heavy burdens that blood and birth right are in our individual lives, we see the circles of intertwining belief tangle and chafe. We watch varied lives mix and part and mix again in new time changing ways.
Jason the white colonial child born to relative privilege, and Rama an "untouchable", and a child of a strange liaison between an epileptic young women known for her visions and a holy man, lived connected lives that run together as a the main thread of the story. We are allowed to understand Jason well enough, but do we ever know Rama? Of that you must be your own judge. I am sure of one powerful detail in this wonderful book, that being that Alan Taylor knows Jason very well.
This is a book for the thoughtful reader, for those who like writers that paint pictures layered with detail that yet still able to leave plenty of room for our minds to fill for themselves. There are many shades of subtle colour divided by vivid strokes in this rich book. The recipe is one of contrasting spices, which leaves a long lingering tingle in the mind. Death is never many pages away, as it is never from us. Behind all is the mantra "It is better to live one day as a Tiger than a hundred years as a sheep".
on December 7, 2011
This book gives a real insight on life on the sub-continent of India, partially from the point of view of British people becoming culturally immersed there and partially from the native Indian angle. I was particularly interested in the character Rama. I have an interest in animals so his powers with animals intrigued me. Rama is an Indian native belonging to the "untouchable" caste, but is nevertheless born with an extraordinary heritage to extraordinary parents and is orphaned very young in horrific circumstances.
The story is well edited and shaped with an unexpected ending which I've decided is a happy one. It really stimulated me to think carefully about what it meant. I suspect it represented a cultural blending of two nations, a coming together of cultures and lives in an environment of love. Also interesting to ponder, and quite honest, that it was India which absorbed England in the end and not the other way around. This is an imaginative story, written by someone with experience of the settings, which gives the reader a great deal to chew over. Highly recommended.
on January 3, 2012
Move over, "A Passage to India!" Back off, "The Last Viceroy." There's a new book on the shelf that holds you spellbound once again relating the last days of the British Raj in India. Alan Taylor has written a wonderful story in an original style that, like a jig saw puzzle, fits the pieces of history together into an unforgettable picture. All the elements are there, family, friends, politics, racism, mysticism and murder. The problem is you can't put the book down. You need to know what's happening `cause things are happening so fast. The characters are all muscle and bone, not a paper doll among them. And, in the background, India is falling apart. Jinnah, Mountbatten, Gandhi, Nehru, all the star players are in the game as India splits apart and the people bleed to death. You are so engrossed that when the final unbelievable scene plays out you can't accept it. There must be more. It can't end here!
I'm going to cool off for a couple of weeks then join Jason and Rama again in search of a different climax. Don't pass this book by. It is a must read. And, watch your step near that cliff, there's a raging river just below.
on March 3, 2012
This work of historical fiction is infused with rich details and mystical elements. I am not very familiar with India's struggle for independence, so I cannot speak to the historical accuracy of this novel, but I found the events and activities described here very believable. They make for an interesting back-drop and vehicle for propelling the characters along.
legend...history...Gods...men...tiger...sheep...The yin and the yang. Rama and Jason are the two central characters. They are representative of the two cultures and yet each is influenced by the other. This mirrors the political climate of India during this time period as it is represented in this book. The differences, prejudices, alliances, and friendships between the English and Indian were all represented through a multitude of characters.
Through his writing, the author is able to draw the reader into this time period and setting. As I was reading, I could feel and smell the differences as we traveled throughout India--especially when Jason's family moved from Coonoor to Delhi. When Jason's family arrived in Delhi, I felt assaulted by the stench and filth as the author described the city. And his description of the riots and violence in Delhi made me feel incredibly sad and angry.
I enjoyed the legends and the mystical aspect of the story. I was intrigued by Rama. The extraordinary circumstances of Rama's birth and his inherited gifts promised an intriguing tale. But as the story continued, I questioned who and what he really was. My feelings toward this character ran from wonder to distrust and back again.
About half way through the book I thought I had figured out how it would unfold. I was not disappointed by this thought; it was not at all that it felt predictable. I felt the author was dropping bread crumbs, and I was happy to follow them. At first the story's focus would alternate between Jason and Rama. But at some point the focus became more about Jason than Rama. About three-quarters of the way into the story, it felt a bit vague. Time had to pass, and the focus stayed on Jason but not much was happening. I found myself wondering what was going on with Rama, but the author did not really return to his story as it related to him--only in how he related to Jason. In the end, I was both surprised and not surprised at the outcome of the story. I think the author accomplished a great feat by pulling this off.
This was not one of those books that I took with me everywhere in hopes of having a spare moment to read it, but I did find myself thinking about the characters and the story even when I was not actively engaged in reading it. I found it to be a very good read and would definitely recommend it.
on February 12, 2012
When "One Day as a Tiger" was recommended, I was hesitant. Books about India usually didn't interest me, but I decided to give this one a try. From the first page, I was mesmerized by the transfixing story about an English boy who befriends an Indian boy with mysterious powers.
Although the boys are separated for long periods of time, their lives are frequently intertwined as they grow up during the British Raj era. This tale of adventure, intrigue and romance moves enigmatically yet smoothly toward a stunning ending.